2018: The Year To Assure Water For Arizona's Future Generations
By Warren Tenney
2018 is set to be a big year for Arizona water law. For the last seven months, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has led a conversation about how to improve managing the state's Colorado River water and groundwater. The conversation included representatives from cities and private utilities, agriculture and ranching, mining and Native American tribes. We are waiting to see exactly how the results of these discussions will be packaged and presented to the Arizona State Legislature for its consideration. The new Legislative Session begins January 8.
Whatever the legislative package looks like, this whole process has generated greater interest in water. For AMWUA's 10 member cities, this is a good thing. When legislators grapple with the complexities of water policies, the debate highlights the critical link between investing in water and sustaining economic growth.
The Governor initiated this important discussion because he recognized the importance of continually planning and investing in our water supplies. This is the time to strengthen our management of Colorado River water and groundwater for the next generations.
The Legislature has the opportunity to build on Arizona’s history of strong water management. For example, Arizona has profited from investing billions of dollars to bring water to the Valley through the Salt River Project and the Central Arizona Project. Arizona has benefited from enacting some of the most forward-thinking groundwater legislation in the world with the 1980 Groundwater Management Act. Municipalities recognize that economic growth has been bolstered by the State’s requirement to demonstrate a 100-year supply of water before development can occur, to secure renewable water supplies such as Colorado River water, and to set conservation standards. In turn, Arizona has gained from its cities’ investments in treatment plants and infrastructure to deliver these water resources to residents and businesses every day of the year.
However, we cannot keep pointing to the smart water policies of the past. We must look ahead. Lake Mead, a giant reservoir on the Colorado River, is 8 feet from the elevation that triggers a water shortage declaration. If the federal government declared a shortage, it would reduce the amount of Colorado River water delivered to Arizona. This winter is off to a very dry start – showing once again how Colorado River hydrology can quickly change. Furthermore, Arizona’s rural areas are facing groundwater challenges that impact family and agricultural wells and raise questions about future growth opportunities. Hoping for a very wet winter cannot be our solution. We must build on our previous successes to stop the decline of Lake Mead and protect our state’s groundwater.
The 10 AMWUA municipalities want to work closely with the Legislature to ensure we strengthen, not weaken, how Arizona manages its water resources. Why is this so critical? We want to ensure the water for our citizens remains secure in this century and beyond. We know water is our lifeblood. Eight out of 10 Arizonans live in the Phoenix and Tucson regions. Municipalities take great care to provide the services that promote the welfare and quality of life in our neighborhoods. The Valley cities have worked hard to help Arizona be at the forefront of wise water management. As a result, the Valley has gone from a dusty outpost into a major economic growth center that is home to the nation’s 12th largest metropolitan region. We have done this in the desert because we have always acknowledged the importance of managing and protecting every drop of water. Our success is directly linked to our successful water management.
AMWUA looks forward to working with the Governor and legislators to build Arizona’s next generation of smart water policies. AMWUA will advocate for legislation that secures and strengthens our water resources. We know water is of statewide importance. It is not a rural or urban issue but an Arizona issue. Rivers and aquifers do not recognize political boundaries. What happens in one part of the state can have a ripple effect throughout the entire state and impact how Arizona is perceived nationally.
We are confident that with increased awareness and understanding about water, the Legislature will take action that will continue to keep safe and reliable water flowing to Arizona’s homes and businesses.
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.