In the winter of 2018, Lauralynn Cornelsen moved out of her mobile home in Sunizona, an unincorporated community in southeast Arizona. After more than six years, she was tired of hauling water for drinking and bathing, and she couldn’t afford to drill a well — certainly not one deep enough to survive the impending squeeze once a nearby mega-dairy began to operate.
Cornelsen’s story epitomizes the challenges local residents are facing over the ongoing water crisis in this rural community, a problem that worsens every year and that no person or agency has figured out how to solve. She is one of hundreds of people, mostly low- to middle-income, living in a high-desert landscape whose groundwater is rapidly disappearing as water is pumped to grow alfalfa, corn, nuts, wheat and barley.
But the greatest pressure on the region’s aquifer comes from Riverview LLP, a Minnesota-based dairy company whose groundwater pumping is seen by many as the primary cause of their drying wells.