Could Water Issues Close Down Fort Huachuca?
The Water Standoff: Rio Verde Versus Scottsdale
Rio Verde, Arizona is facing a water crisis. According to Fox 10, Phoenix, beginning January 1st of this year, the city of Scottsdale cut off the water supply to the unincorporated area of Maricopa County known as the Rio Verde Foothills.
Since then, residents have been scrambling to find alternative water sources. Residents and businesses are having water trucked into the area at 3 to 4 times the cost. This stop gap measure is intended to keep the supply flowing while lawsuits are filed demanding Scottsdale restore water to the 500 plus residences in the area.
In the meantime, the Arizona state legislature has introduced HB 2411, a bill meant to address the water stoppage and hold Scottsdale accountable for some of the shutoff costs.
As conditions move at the speed of government in Maricopa County, Rio Verde residents have been left to scramble for alternate solutions for their water needs. Without wells and groundwater reservoirs, the residents are having water hauled into the community and it is exacting a hefty cost.
Water Issues Affecting Ranching and Farming
Thankfully, things are not as dire here in Cochise County. The County has encouraged low water usage in a variety of ways, disallowing grandiose green lawns and other regulations that keep residential and business water use lower than other Arizona cities.
While we aren’t dependent on a large city municipality to decide the fate of our water supply, in 2020 a report filed by the Arizona Department of Water Resources indicated that in some areas, groundwater levels, like in the Willcox basin, for example, dropped 8 feet a year between 2008 and 2018. The change is impacted in large part by large industrial farming concerns moving in from California and other states as they set up large farms and ranches, lured by the cheaper land and lower operation costs.
Could a Water Standoff Close Fort Huachuca?
Decades ago, Fort Huachuca realized that to remain viable it had to protect the citizens who work in and around the fort. As recently as 2020, the fort provided over 21,000 direct and indirect jobs and $2.9 billion in economic activity annually.
After 30 years, Fort Huachuca has continued and expanded its partnership with conservation efforts aimed at protecting the San Pedro River and the surrounding ecosystem. As the main economic force in Cochise County the strong partnership continues to make sense.
Protecting the San Pedro Riparian area preserves jobs on the fort. Preserving jobs on the fort ensures the continued existence of surrounding communities like Sierra Vista, Huachuca City, and Hereford.
The Threat Continues
The measures taken by the fort are impressive, but in the eyes of some, they don't go far enough.
Just as residents of Rio Verde are discovering, an outside force may have the power to cut off water supplies by any means necessary. The justification is different, but may be a bellwether of water issues to come.
While the fort continues its work to preserve water sources and to grow consciously and carefully, outside environmental groups continue to threaten its existence.
According to the Southwestern Communities Coalition, the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups are actively attempting to close Fort Huachuca, through lawsuits aimed at restricting water access.
As our area’s largest economic driver, the loss of Fort Huachuca would devastate our community.