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Gila Bend opposes a formal move by the state to regulate the town's only water source

By Matthew Casey
Published: Friday, February 16, 2024 - 9:43am
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2024 - 10:07am

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Gila Bend welcome sign
Chelsey Heath/KJZZ
The Gila Bend welcome sign on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.

State officials have received dozens of comments on whether the Arizona Department of Water Resources should formally move to regulate how much groundwater is pumped from the Gila Bend basin.

One opposition comment is from the mayor and council of the basin’s namesake town. Gila Bend’s only water source is the basin.

The state’s 15-business-day window to comment on the proposal closed this week.

Gila Bend officials unsuccessfully sought an extension so they could hire experts to verify state data on the basin.

Town Manager Katherine Valenzuela said first word of the proposal came to her from a local farmer, not the state. 

“Gila Bend is a small, rural, low-income community. About 70% of our residents are Latino. And I just want to be sure that all voices are heard,” Valenzuela said.

A state hydrologist said the Gila Bend basin is one of three unregulated areas that have shown the most decline over 20 years.

Valenzuela said the informal process to this point feels arbitrary and accelerated.

“We want to be sure that we have ample time to hire our own experts to verify the state’s data. Hire our own hydrologist, hydrogeologists,” Valenzuela said.

Dairy farming is the main form of agriculture around Gila Bend.

Politics Water