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Gov. Whitmer endorses Kamala Harris for president, says she's not leaving Michigan; Grilled by lawmakers on the Trump assassination attempt, Secret Service director says, 'We failed;' Teachers rally at national convention in Houston; Opioid settlement fund fuels anti-addiction battle in Indiana; Nonprofit agency says corporate donations keep programs going.

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Democrats consolidate support behind Vice President Harris, Republicans threaten legal action over changes to the presidential ticket, and a possible bipartisan consensus forms on the failure of the Secret Service to protect former President Trump.

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It's grass-cutting season and with it, rural lawn mower races, Montana's drive-thru blood project is easing shortages, rural Americans spend more on food when transportation costs are tallied, and a lack of good childcare is thwarting rural business owners.

AZ town grapples with drying wells, unregulated water use, large ag ops

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Monday, June 3, 2024   

Wells in the Willcox Basin in southeastern Arizona are drying up, and many are pointing the finger at massive agriculture and cattle operations.

Kristine Uhlman is a retired University of Arizona hydrologist who says the Willcox Playa, a basin a few miles south of the city of Willcox, holds fresh water.

But it's also a place where there are no regulations to manage or control extraction.

She contends it caught the eye of the Minnesota-based dairy and beef conglomerate Riverview LLP that began setting up shop in the area in 2014.

Uhlman said, simply put, if you've had the money to drill deeper wells, you got the water.

"That is why those guys from Minnesota discovered they could drop a well and take as much water as they want," said Uhlman, "All the water they want, and nobody is going to stop it."

But the corporation has said the lack of regulation had nothing to do with its decision to move to the southwest, but more to do with the mild climate.

It is also a big economic driver in the region.

Combined, Riverview's Willcox dairy operations house tens of thousands of beef and dairy cows, with mature cattle consuming as many as 50 gallons of water a day.

Dairy and beef operations are expected to grow in the region, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Uhlman said water resources should be thought of as a savings or checking account.

She said a checking account is where most people have a paycheck deposited every other week, and know how much they have and what they can plan for.

That isn't the case for Arizona's water savings account. She said when water is taken out, there's nothing going back in. She added water regulation is a contentious issue for Cochise County, and encourages residents to do what they can to ensure they'll have enough until things change.

"There is no recharge approach that will recover any of the water that you've used," said Uhlman. "There are no underground rivers. I know there are people in Willcox who keep saying, 'But we have an underground river.' No, you do not."

Uhlman said private well owners are responsible for the upkeep of their wells and the quality of water produced, and that contaminants like bacteria and nitrates from ag operations and cattle can have serious health impacts.

Her Arizona Well Owner's Guide lays out educational information for well owners.




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