BY: Warren Tenney

Legislature focused on a flurry of water bills that largely ignored long-term water security

Published Jun 25, 2024

Arizona lawmakers introduced a record-number 95 bills on water in the recently adjourned 2024 legislative session, most of which focused on either undermining the consumer protections offered by the Assured Water Supply Program or undercutting the state's ability to manage groundwater in rural areas. Although these measures took up a considerable amount of lawmakers' time, very few passed out of the Legislature. None of the blatantly bad bills were signed into law.

The budget was a similarly bleak story for water security. State leaders understandably had to address the financial deficit facing the State, but rather than make hard decisions, they turned to where unutilized monies could easily be found. Lawmakers once again raided the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority's (WIFA's) Long-Term Water Augmentation Fund, which is intended to finance a project to import new water supplies into our state. The original plan envisioned a billion dollars in this fund by July 1, 2024. Due to diverted appropriations and fund sweeps, it will now have less than half that amount. Moreover, lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have given WIFA the ability to access private financing for water importation projects. All of this undermines the message that Arizona is serious about investing in long-term water security, which is the foundation of our economy.   

Lawmakers also failed to continue funding the Temporary Groundwater and Irrigation Efficiency Projects Program and WIFA's Water Conservation Grant Fund, which have provided considerable financial support to implement forward-thinking agricultural and municipal conservation measures. Consequently, funding for these programs is running out at a time when increasing water efficiency and conservation is even more critical.  

The next few years will bring considerable challenges for our state's water resources: 

  • Recent modeling by the Arizona Department of Water Resources projects that we have reached the limits of growth on solely groundwater in the Phoenix and Pinal AMAs.
  • Groundwater basins in many rural areas are being depleted by uncontrolled pumping, which is impacting local communities.
  • The Colorado River is producing less water due to an unrelenting, historic drought along with a drier and hotter climate in the Colorado River Basin.  

In the face of these challenges, our elected leaders must not take for granted or undermine the water security that communities and the State have diligently invested in and work to maintain. Instead, they should heed the wisdom of water experts who are responsible for providing water every day of the year to residents and businesses and understand that we are in an "era of limits" that requires us to continually strengthen our water security. 

There are some glimmers of hope. Lawmakers passed, and Governor Hobbs signed into law, three bills intended to help more water providers become designated as having an assured water supply. All designated water providers, like the ten AMWUA cities, must limit groundwater pumping by investing in and utilizing other water supplies. Measures like this, combined with financing for new water supplies and conservation measures, are critical tools for ensuring water security for the millions of people who call Arizona home. We hope lawmakers refocus their efforts in the next session to support our water security well into the future. 

For 55 years, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has helped protect our member cities' ability to provide their communities with assured, safe, and sustainable water supplies. For more information, visit .