EDF Action files lawsuit to defend groundwater protections for Douglas Basin communities

July 19, 2023
Hannah Blatt, hblatt@edfaction.org, 202-572-3534

(PHOENIX, July 19, 2023) EDF Action filed a lawsuit against the political committee formed to attempt to remove local water supply protections that Douglas voters put in place, in November 2022, by direct citizen action. The suit raises concerns that the petitions filed to place a new initiative on the ballot failed to follow the law. 

Enacting the Douglas AMA through a local ballot measure was necessary because, for years, a small handful of special interests have blocked bipartisan locally-tailored groundwater solutions at the State Legislature, leaving rural communities with a narrow choice: do nothing while water supplies disappear or use the limited tools available to them under the law to protect their water supplies, including new Active Management Areas (AMAs). Douglas Basin communities chose to enact a new AMA. Now, a newly formed political committee, ironically calling itself “Save our Water,” is resorting to misinformation and scare tactics in an attempt to repeal the Douglas AMA and undermine local water supply protections. 

EDF Action supported local communities in passing the Douglas AMA ballot measure last year. We continue to stand beside communities to defend local water supply protections. 

“EDF Action is proud to have filed suit to stop the repeal of the Douglas AMA, standing with communities to protect finite local water supplies. This AMA repeal effort attempts to undermine local communities, and it illustrates the cynicism that has stood between rural communities and their water security for too long: stopping new groundwater management options from being passed at the Legislature and arguing we already have the needed tools while at the same time opposing the communities who choose to use these tools.” said Chris Kuzdas, Senior Water Program Manager at EDF Action. “Voters overwhelmingly want to see action by elected leaders to protect local groundwater. Governor Hobbs has a generational opportunity to cut through this disingenuous fog by planning for executive action to secure water supplies for rural communities in need throughout the state.” 

“Something needed to be done to protect the water supplies on which we all depend so we chose to enact an AMA,” said Ash Dahlke, a resident of the Douglas Basin. “We overcame deceitful opposition from the same interests that also block legislative proposals from rural communities seeking more options to manage finite local groundwater supplies. Efforts to repeal the AMA are a distraction from the work that lies ahead to cooperatively manage our shared water resources.” 

“I started my small non-commercial orchard here in the Douglas Basin over fifty years ago, and have watched the recent decline in the water table, mostly from unconscionable overpumping by large farms that have recently set up operations here because of lax state rules for groundwater use,” said Michael Gregory. “We passed the AMA as a viable first step to check that overdraft. I’m sorry to see others work to reverse that step and return us to the unsustainable situation we had before.

“For years, rural communities like mine in Willcox have come to the Legislature with proposals to protect our groundwater with wide bipartisan support from across rural Arizona,” said Steve Kisiel, a longtime resident in the Willcox Basin. “But a handful of interests repeatedly stop these proposals. Meanwhile, more and more of my neighbors in the Willcox Basin must deepen our wells at great cost while our only water supply – groundwater – disappears out of reach for more and more of us. Those who cannot afford to deepen wells lose access to water. Others move away. The cycle of bad faith repeats itself with this attempt to repeal the Douglas AMA and this cannot continue. On behalf of my neighbors in the Willcox Basin, we respectfully ask Governor Hobbs to move forward with executive action to protect our water supplies.”