New “Water Book” outlines Arizona’s path forward on water

The Governor’s Office has released “Securing Arizona’s Water Future,” an illustrated outline of Governor Ducey’s plan for taking action to help secure the State’s water supplies.

The “water book,” as it is known, is available on the Governor’s website.

It escorts readers through Arizona’s storied (and, often, trailblazing) history of water management, including a candid outline of the challenges now facing the State in this era of drought. It also proposes legislative solutions to those issues.

Arizona is a renowned leader in water management thanks to its long history of careful planning and effective governance. But, with the State facing serious challenges to some of its key water supplies, the Governor’s Office asserts that the time to act on water policy is now.

Governor Ducey has prioritized Arizona’s water future as one of the most crucial policy issues facing the State. He highlighted the issue in his 2018 State of the State address:

“Earning Arizona’s reputation as a national leader in water management was no easy feat and it didn’t happen by accident. It was the proactive nature of our predecessors, and our state’s willingness to take-on complex issues.

“This session, we must follow their lead and put forward responsible policies that will ensure Arizona speaks with one-voice to secure the state’s future for generations to come.”

As the water book illustrates, Arizona relies on the Colorado River for 40 percent of its water supply. Unfortunately, the Colorado River system has experienced severe drought conditions for more than 17 years. Lake Mead, a vital reservoir on the Colorado River, is less than 40 percent full.

Lake Mead water levels are important because they determine whether a shortage is declared in the State’s Colorado River allocation, which would result in decreased delivery levels of water.

Based on data from the Bureau of Reclamation, the threat of a shortage declaration by the Bureau at Lake Mead is real.

Building on Arizona’s history of responsible initiatives, the Governor’s Office has proposed a plan that focuses on strategic conservation.

The plan also calls for protecting consumers through responsible groundwater management and by speaking with one voice on water-management issues, particularly regarding the Colorado River.

Governor Ducey’s plan would better enable voluntary conservation of Colorado River water by providing the State with forbearance authority relating to specified circumstances. This would contribute to higher Lake Mead elevations, reducing the likelihood of a shortage and providing increased protection from the economic consequences of water-delivery reductions.

With an eye toward achieving the management goals of Active Management Areas (the geographic areas created through Arizona’s landmark 1980 Groundwater Management Act), the Governor’s proposal would also establish an advisory committee to monitor the progress of AMAs.

Finally, since decisions about Arizona’s water supply affect the entire state, the Governor’s plan ensures accountability by requiring State authorization before entering into interstate deals involving Colorado River water.

Water Resources Director to testify before Senate committee on Hualapai water settlement legislation

hualapai skywalk

The Hualapai Tribe’s famous “Skywalk” attraction overlooking the Grand Canyon

Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke will testify on Wednesday, Dec. 6, before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on legislation that would provide the Hualapai Tribe of northwestern Arizona with 4,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water annually.

In 2016, the Tribe agreed to a settlement of its long-standing claim to Colorado River water. The legislation – S. 1770, introduced by Arizona Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain — secures the 2016 agreement.

The agreement ensures that the tribe’s previously outstanding water claims could not potentially displace water used by other customers that also rely on the Colorado and Verde rivers. As a result, the agreement helps provide certainty for water users throughout Arizona.

In addition to its claim to Colorado River water, the Tribe also has a claim to water of the Upper Verde River watershed.

At the time of the settlement agreement, Director Buschatzke noted that the settlement of tribal water-rights claims “has long been a top strategic priority for the State.”

“The resolution of the Hualapai Tribe’s water-rights claims, including its claims to Colorado River water, is a major step to providing long-term certainty to water-users throughout the State,” said  Buschatzke.

“This settlement will allow the Hualapai Tribe to enjoy the assurance of a secure and dependable water supply to its communities. Senator John McCain and Senator Jeff Flake deserve great credit for sponsoring this settlement legislation in the Senate.”

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on the proposed legislation — known as the Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act — is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. (MST).