What makes you think that it will work here?
It is hard to fathom agricultural impact in Arizona as most of us are accustomed to living and working in the larger cities. Drive 15 minutes in any direction outside of any major metropolitan area and you will see a side of Arizona that many of us simply don’t think about. There is “snatch and grab” water regulation being proposed in Willcox will destroy the stability and continued growth of agriculture taking one of Arizona’s top five truly sustainable industries with it.
Over the last century an edacious monster has steadily grown and voraciously consumed California’s water resources. It has grown so large and consumed all that it can there and it has now set its sights on Arizona.
The monster is masquerading as the champion for water conservation in Willcox. Farmers and homeowners are being duped into believing that unconditional regulation of water resources will ensure its future availability. You may find this hard to believe, but legislation is being proposed that literally prohibits future vineyard development in the Willcox AVA. A glaringly obvious detail that is being glazed over is the proposal that newly purchased land may not be planted if it hasn’t been farmed in the last five years. It would become an illegal act to plant a vineyard of any size in Arizona’s largest grape-growing region. There is the tale being told of exemption, but legislation created decades ago makes this nearly impossible.
Typically in Arizona, agricultural land is purchased and farmed in sections, (three hundred or more acres.) Arizona Farm Winery vineyards are the exception. Historically they are an extension of a Vigneron’s home or family winery and typically span fifteen or twenty acres.
Under current state law, an Arizona Farm Winery may only produce a maximum of 8,000 cases of wine annually to retain self-distribution privileges. Therefore more than 25 acres of planted grapes is impractical. Traditionally, Arizona Vignerons will purchase smaller parcels of undeveloped land and this is where the problem lies. The monster’s proposed legislation will make it impossible to develop future vineyards and will bring an awakening industry to its knees.
We just need to look west of the San Joaquin Valley between Bakersfield and Sacremento to see the devastating effects of this type of regulation. Hundreds of thousands of acres once flourishing with agriculture and commerce are now littered with dead trees, tumbleweeds and jobs are nowhere to be had. Ironic that one of the world’s largest aqueducts, the California Aqueduct carries water from northern California right through this once viable region to Los Angeles, so residents can wash their cars.
Willcox will suffer this same fate and an industry that impacts Arizona’s economy to the tune of over $43 million and thousands of related jobs.
In the argument of water conservation it needs to be noted that an average home and its single family’s use of associated amenities and services in a developed area, (grocery stores, car washes, restaurants, etc.) can consume about an acre foot of water annually. That is close to 326,000 gallons per household. Developers can squeeze up to five houses on a single acre of land. This amount of water usage exceeds even the most water demanding crops. Grapes average 24 inches of water per acre annually. Willcox has a rainfall that suits grape-growing lessening the crop’s demand to even less than one household.
Water conservation starts with the individual. This is another case of the government stepping in where it shouldn’t and the people that it is claiming to protect will end up being the victims.