The Arizona Corporation Commission, by a 4-1 vote shortly before 11 p.m., approved a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the Perkins Mountain Utility and Perkins Mountain Water Company to serve the 25,000 home and golf course development called Pravada.
Commissioner Kristin Mayes cast the dissenting vote after failing to pass an amendment that would have stalled construction of the golf course until enough homes were occupied to generate effluent to water the course. She said it would be "immoral" for Rhodes to waste groundwater on a golf course in the parched desert.
Chairman Mike Gleason and Commissioner Jeff Hatch-Miller said there is nothing wrong with using groundwater for the course. Both said Rhodes and his staff had proved a sufficient water supply and that he is legally entitled to use the resource to build an upscale development unrivaled in the area.
Issuance of the Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CC&N), along with favorable determination of adequate water supply from the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR), gives the developer the green light to begin construction of a water system for the development (which also requires permits from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to actually begin serving water to residents).
This development has been very contentious because the area where it is being built has no access to renewable water supplies and groundwater is pretty deep in many areas. A new development with 25,000 homes is undoubtedly going to result in water level declines throughout the area, which will disproportionately affect individual homeowners on private wells who may lack resources to deepen their wells. Unfortunately, under Arizona water law, those people have no legal recourse to fight this once the development is approved and they start pumping - their only option is to try to stop the development in the first place, which many of them did. It's just awfully hard to stop progress and that is how this development is viewed by many in Northwest Arizona.
This has also been an ongoing issue of contention on the Commission. Commissioner Mayes has been a strong proponent of water conservation and preventing the use of high-quality drinking water supplies to irrigate turf. Other members of the commission have supported this stance, but not as staunchly as Mayes. Next year, a couple of new commissioners will be taking over for Mike Gleason and Jeff Hatch-Miller (as well as Bill Mundell). Two of the new commissioners are democrats, who will likely support Kris Mayes in her efforts to conserve water in rural Arizona.
In some respects this is just another way that Las Vegas is dealing with their chronic water shortages. There isn't enough water to build houses for these people in Nevada, but the Vegas area wants to keep growing. [Check out this NY Times article from this past Aug.]Why not put people in houses in Arizona, use the water there, then have them commute to Vegas and Henderson to work and contribute to their economy. And to sweeten the pot even more, this development gets subsidized by all U.S. taxpayers because what really makes it feasible is the new bypass and bridge being built by the feds near Hoover Dam. Pretty clever, huh?