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Arizona restricts Kingman area's farm expansions in bid to protect groundwater

The state's department of water recently formed an Irrigation Non-Expansion Area in Mohave County, a move that restricts the irrigation of new acres of land.

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Farmers in a western Arizona community are now banned from expanding their farms to new acres in a bid to protect the area's groundwater.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources announced the restriction on Monday.

"New agricultural use occurring on land that was not irrigated in the five years preceding the designation of the [Irrigation Non-expansion Area] INA is prohibited, with a few exceptions for substitution or transfer of acres under specified circumstances," the department said in a press release Monday.

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"Irrigation" in the department's INA context is defined as watering two or more acres of land to produce plants or for use as feed for livestock.

Department data found the majority of the area's groundwater wells have seen dwindling water levels over the past 10 years. Around 67% of the measured wells were in decline, while 24% of wells saw minimal change and 8% of wells were rising.

The decision came after months of virtual and in-person meetings were held in Kingman, where numerous residents on the INA, the majority in favor of the regulation.

Officials at the most recent meeting in November delivered their remarks in an hour. The informal public comment section lasted for two and a half hours, with each person being given three minutes to speak before the meeting was cut off.

"There are no reporting guidelines on how much water these wells pump, how deep the wells can be, or how many wells these parcels can have," said Jean Bishop, a Mohave County Board of Supervisors member. "This leaves Mohave County at a severe disadvantage when it comes to planning for growth and economic prosperity."

See the full meeting here:

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