My fellow blogger (now retired) Wayne Bossert appears to have created quite a sensation with the Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) concept he implemented in the Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District # 4. The revolution underway in western Kansas that is attempting to preserve irrigated agriculture in the face of drought, aquifer depletion, and rising crop prices is a bold experiment in local resource management that has recently been highlighted on NPR (two times) and more recently in the Economist. I'm a big fan of locally developed solutions to resource management problems so I really applaud the efforts that have been made by farmers and water managers in that area. Their work would surely make Elinor Ostrom proud. Although some of the problems with the High Plains aquifer are significantly larger than what a single Management District can successfully grapple with I think this model could be employed elsewhere and if implemented sufficiently broadly could actually make a difference for the broader future of farming on the high plains.
Here in Arizona, the state Department of Water Resources (ADWR) is attempting their own experiment in local management solutions to deal with aquifer depletion issues in the Phoenix area. It's called the Enhanced Aquifer Management Stakeholder Group, stemming from a proposal made late last year by ADWR to look at some new rules to encourage more groundwater recharge in areas where groundwater demands appear to be outstripping local supplies. This proposal was intended as an idea that would be floated in the upcoming 4th Management Plans for each of the Active Management Areas in the state.
I previously expressed a few opinions on this idea here and here. The idea has been pretty soundly rejected by water providers in the Tucson AMA, because it would really throw a wrench in the water management strategies of some entities, plus the local folks down here already seem to be figuring out how to deal with some of the sub-regional aquifer health issues. We still have a ways to go but are not facing the kind of restraints some parts of the Phoenix AMA are dealing with.
But if you check out some of the comments received at ADWR on their original proposal (scroll down on the Stakeholder Group page) you will find that there appears to be interest in pursuing the idea in the Phoenix area, with several comments recommending a stakeholder working group such as they are implementing. I'll be curious to see what they come up and how it gets incorporated into the next management plan. But I still think they should be focused more on water levels than on proximity of pumping and recharge.