Water Management Assistance Program Funding

Water Management Assistance Program Funding

Credit: Kent Akbay

A requirement in state law puts funding that supports water supply augmentation, conservation, and monitoring programs at risk beginning in 2017. The programs help ensure all sectors maximize available water supplies, particularly significant given the ever-present risk that deliveries from the Colorado River could be reduced.

The Issue

Water Management Assistance Program Funding

Agricultural Irrigation

Funded by the WMAP, the Water Conservation Management Program assists agricultural andurban irrigation water users by providing on-site irrigation technical assistance, including education and outreach to all agricultural water users, and by serving as a monitoring agent for the ADWR’s Agricultural Best Management Practice program.

Credit: wvgroundwater.org

Since 1990, the Water Management Assistance Program (WMAP) has provided funding and technical assistance to agricultural, industrial, and municipal users to help develop and implement conservation programs and augmentation projects, increase the use of renewable water supplies, and acquire information about hydrologic conditions and water availability. 

The WMAP is funded by a portion of the groundwater withdrawal fee that was established as part of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act (GMA).  The groundwater withdrawal fee is paid on each acre-foot of groundwater pumped within an active management area (AMA)—Arizona’s groundwater regulation zones.  Each year, the Groundwater Users Advisory Council (GUAC) for each AMA votes to set the fee and how it will be used, subject to statutory restrictions.

Beginning with the 2017 fee setting process, statute requires that $0.50 of the fee be dedicated to administration and enforcement of the GMA.  Prior to 2017, no fee revenue had been dedicated for these purposes.  To avoid increasing the fee, the GUAC would have to cut an equivalent $0.50 from another area historically supported by the fee.  The fee only supports two other funding areas:  the Arizona Water Banking Authority (AWBA), at $2.50 per acre-foot, and the WMAP, at $0.50 per acre-foot.  The AWBA portion is required by statute, which means eliminating funding for the WMAP is the only solution if the fee is not increased.

While funds raised by the fee for the WMAP are relatively small—$213,000 was collected in the Phoenix AMA in 2015—the funds are important.  Since 1992, the WMAP has provided funding for hundreds of beneficial programs and projects, many sponsored by AMWUA and its member cities. Projects in high demand, such as Arizona Project WET (training for teachers and education for school children), Smartscape (training for landscape professionals), and the Water Conservation Management Program (irrigation efficiency assistance for agriculture) would lose a potentially fatal portion of their funding if the WMAP is eliminated.

In the future, the call to reduce the groundwater withdrawal fee and, by extension, funding for the WMAP, will only grow stronger as the costs of pumping groundwater increase.  Since the fee is set annually, maintaining support for WMAP funding and communicating its positive impact will be an ongoing effort.

Water Management Assistance Program Funding

Wastewater Reuse & Irrigation Efficiency in Turf Facilities

In the 1980s, the WMAP funded research on the impacts of reclaimed water on turf, helping establish Arizona as a forerunner in the use of recycled wastewater for irrigating golf courses and playing fields, offsetting the use of potable supplies. The program also funded for the installation of AZ Meteorological Network stations to advance efficient irrigation.

Current Efforts

Recognizing the real impact this small fee has had, the AMWUA Board of Directors unanimously supported maintaining the portion of the groundwater withdrawal fee dedicated to conservation, augmentation, and monitoring efforts at $0.50 per AF. AMWUA’s executive director advocated this position at the September 22, 2016, meeting of the Phoenix AMA GUAC by communicating how important the funds have been and will be to sustain Arizona’s water future.  The GUAC members ultimately voted to reduce the portion dedicated to conservation, augmentation, and monitoring to $0.25 per AF, but not eliminate it entirely. Councilmembers compromised between their desire to keep the overall fee from increasing and the importance of funding important water management efforts.  

AMWUA is committed to supporting augmentation and conservation efforts and will continue to advocate for additional funding in the future.

Water Management Assistance Program Funding

Arizona Project WET Makes a Splash Festival in Chandler

Project WET festivals provide interactive lessons to 4th grade students about the water cycle, the value of water and conservation, watersheds, and groundwater. WMAP funding provides crucial support to Project WET Maricopa County.

What You Can Do

Advocate for continued funding for the Water Management Assistance Program. The GUAC decides their recommendation for the withdrawal fee annually at their spring meeting. Councilmembers actively seek input from the public in these meetings. It is particularly helpful to provide first hand accounts of how programs supported by WMAP funds have benefitted you and your community. GUAC meetings are posted here.