2017: AMWUA Cities Worked To Assure Water Supplies
By Warren Tenney
2017 was another busy year in water. It marked AMWUA’s 48th year of supporting the work of 10 Central Arizona cities to assure safe and reliable water for their residents. During 2017, as in previous years, water professionals worked together to create partnerships and policies that protected their cities’ water supplies and, consequently, helped their economies grow. Droughts, record-breaking temperatures, threats of shortages on the Colorado River, and the uncertainties of climate change kept water management in the news. More people began paying attention and looking for ways to help.
In 2017, as we do every year, AMWUA closely followed legislation affecting water. AMWUA lobbied for successful proposals that created a new water agreement with Mexico and increased the budget of the state’s leading water agency, the Arizona Department of Water Resources. AMWUA also supported the state's $2 million investment to protect Lake Mead, the Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam where Arizona draws 40 percent of its water. AMWUA also helped to stop legislation that would have increased groundwater pumping in Pinal County and weaken the requirement that developers prove they have an assured 100-year water supply for new residents and businesses before they start building.
In February 2017, AMWUA organized the Arizona Water Reception for legislators to meet with water professionals. This helped lawmakers understand water issues and water leaders understand where lawmakers stood on the issues.
Here are a few other events that kept AMWUA working in 2017.
Governor’s Water Solutions Conversation: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey gathered big water users – cities, agriculture, mining, ranchers – and asked them to create policies that would stop the fall of Lake Mead, prevent a federal shortage declaration, and protect groundwater, particularly in rural areas. AMWUA staff members attended all 22 formal meetings of the Governor's Water Solutions Conversation, produced written summaries for AMWUA's 10 member cities and kept the AMWUA Board of Directors and Management Board informed about the issues discussed. The proposals from this process will be the focus of the 2018 legislative session. AMWUA’s work means our members are well informed and can speak with one voice.
Water Finance Group: Water and wastewater managers, conservation experts, and elected officials meet regularly at the AMWUA office to work out solutions to their common problems. In 2017, AMWUA established a new working group: Water Finance. This brings together AMWUA cities’ water finance staffs and does two things. First, it offers finance experts up-to-date information about water supply and conservation issues that impact revenue. Second, it gives finance experts an opportunity to share information and solutions about the impact of drought on revenue, establishing water rates, and financing infrastructure. The group has looked at differences among water systems that affect rates, the Water Infrastructure Financing Authority (WIFA), avoided costs from conservation efforts, and Central Arizona Project (CAP) rates.
Water Quality Standards Task Force: The quality of Colorado River water delivered through the CAP canal is important to cities because it determines how the cities treat the raw water when it reaches their drinking water plants. In the future, CAP’s canal could be used to deliver water that is not directly from the Colorado River, such as water that has been stored underground in case of shortages. If the quality of that water is lower than what now arrives at the city plants, it could mean expensive changes to treatment processes. AMWUA coordinated discussions among water users along the CAP canal to reach an agreement about the quality of water that may be introduced into the CAP canal. These discussions resulted in a consensus proposal. This group will continue to work with CAP and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to implement the proposal.
AMWUA Analyses: Much of AMWUA’s success in 2017 relied on research and data. AMWUA policy analysts regularly attended CAP meetings, Salt River Project Board meetings, Governor’s Water Augmentation Council, Arizona Water Banking Authority, and Groundwater Users Advisory Council meetings. They then researched some of the state’s pressing water issues and produced the hard facts and numbers needed for AMWUA member cities to find the best solutions to common problems. This research and analysis also helped city officials to lobby effectively for smart water policies.
Conservation: AMWUA has played a key role in making Arizona a leader in water conservation. Here are a few conservation issues AMWUA worked on in 2017:
- Strongly supported, advocated for, and coordinated with national organizations to preserve federal funding and secure authorization for the EPA WaterSense Program, which has been critical to driving the market for water efficient appliances and fixtures.
- Continued to add Arizona’s voice to the national effort to exempt water conservation rebates from federal income tax.
- Contracted for hands-on training for AMWUA cities' conservation specialists to conduct water audits for commercial, institutional and industrial facilities so they can better assist those customers to save water and money.
- Facilitated participation in the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s "avoided cost" analyses. This research documented how investment in water conservation reduced per person water use and kept water rates lower in the Town of Gilbert and the City of Tucson.
AMWUA cities and staff members understand that success depends on you - residents, businesses, voters. That’s why AMWUA launched a new, mobile-adapted website with user-friendly navigation to better communicate issues and challenges that our communities face. The site includes AMWUA's position on these issues, the solutions we're working on, and how you can get engaged. You’ll find this weekly AMWUA Blog plublished every Monday on the new website's homepage. In 2018, the AMWUA Blog will continue to keep you informed about water policy and offer tips about how you can save water and money. AMWUA also is active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Come join us in our 49th year and help us keep Arizona one of the smartest water states in the country.
For 49 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.