A new law known as the “Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers more than 10 billion dollars to upgrade drinking water systems. This law needs to be amended or a new law enacted to enhance the water supply of the arid southwestern states that depend on groundwater. A Western Water Enhancement Amendment is needed to allow capture of seasonal monsoon floodwaters to recharge groundwater aquifers. This ground water enhancement would provide a reliable drinking water supply that could allow for the development of planned retirement communities.
Every year, there is a multi-million retirement market for people who want to spend their golden years in a year-round mild climate, away from congestion in big cities. The arid southwestern states rural counties can meet this need. These scenic lands can overcome traditionally high poverty rates with a vibrant economic engine provided by retirement communities, in land-rich, recreational and tourism resources.
The current approach for protecting the threat of aquifer depletion is by restricting growth of real estate developments. This stifles the rural and state economies of the southwest. A water enhancement amendment or act would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and build systems to capture the annual storm water to recharge the aquifers. Big dams are not needed. All that is needed is diversions or other catchment systems that provide temporary storage of some monsoon water that can be pumped into recharge wells.
The first question is, will there be retirees buying homes in the desert southwest? Without question, there is an established market for successful retirees who want to leave the big city daily grind to planned developments with all the amenities. The Southwest’s rural counties have a wonderful climate, beautiful scenery and are adjacent to public lands, parks and historical preserves. These new residents bring their wealth to the southwest that will provide an unending economic engine that is sorely needed in the region.
This economic footprint is not a boom and bust scenario. It includes two or three decades of building new homes, followed by a continuous need for maintenance services and a marketplace. Most impressive, is the recreational potential for seniors of social sports like golf, hiking and enjoying the natural environment, wildlife and national preserves.
Traditionally, the rural southwest has a disturbing high poverty rate as cattle ranching, mining and agriculture is highly restricted with blind and unreasonable federal regulations on public lands, usually with a speculation that there is a shortage of reasonable sources of water. This myth is supported by an absence of engineering solutions to capture seasonal monsoon floodwaters to enhance our aquifers. Unfortunately, agriculture irrigation use of water is unregulated and traditionally uses more water than a housing development. Real estate development is positive, as most of this water use is recycled.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has an outstanding record of developing engineering solutions to overcome natural impediments that prevent land use and impede economic development. The Corps of Engineers civil districts have been instrumental in cooperatively funding some projects with local funds. The capture of monsoon generated floodwater could be partially funded by a small percentage added to the water bill of residents of a new housing development. As the development of planned real estate takes two or three decades to complete, it gives time to develop an aquifer recharge system as the project is being developed.
What is needed is an example amendment or a western water enhancement act to protect the 888 square miles of the Sierra Vista watershed of the San Pedro River. The present approach to limit land use based upon speculated estimated water use will compromise the flow of the San Pedro River. Change always succeeds with the adoption of a better alternative that meets the economic needs of the community. The use of flood water caused by annual monsoons is more than ample to ensure over-draining water in the San Pedro watershed. The long term benefits of surcharges on water bills for new real estate planned developments could provide income for the federal investment.
The bigger picture is to provide a design based system to capture some of the San Pedro floodwater to enhance the San Pedro aquifer and would expand the tax base for the federal, state and county government. This would also reduce the current welfare drain with a growing community of planned real estate development that provides employment and a stable economy. A domino effect with the rejection of planned real estate developments such as Vigneto and Tribute communities for the failure to adopt a floodwater aquifer enhancement programs, would create an economic decline that leads to a welfare-based economy for those who are unable to leave. These are the strong reasons for a Western Water Enhancement Amendment Act.
Water use studies of retirement developments show not much water use as there are three sources of water inherent with retirement developments:
- Capture of rainwater from building roofs and pavement
- Wash water recovery
- Sanitation of waste water that can be recycled
The long term benefits of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water enhancement amendment or act are just too numerous to list.