Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey spoke Friday at Valley Partnership’s February Morning Breakfast for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Ducey and Valley Partnership President and CEO Cheryl Lombard discussed his priorities for this legislative session – the last of his final term as governor – including investments in Arizona water infrastructure and security, the state’s relationship with Mexico and continued development and economic growth.
Arizona Water Authority
Ducey announced that he supports the creation of an Arizona Water Authority, which will be tasked with developing new water sources for the state as western states experience a nearly two-decade drought. He aims for the state to invest $1 billion in the authority, which he describes as a “once-in-a-generation investment.”
As Arizona’s traditional water sources provide less water each year while the state’s population continues to grow, the state will either need to reduce water use or supplement existing water sources.
Ducey has made it apparent that Arizona will continue to seek innovative water solutions rather than implement water cuts and restrictions. “We use less water today than we did in 1957,” Ducey said. Arizona’s current population is nearly seven times larger than it was in 1957.
The Arizona Water Authority will have the power to construct and own water infrastructure, store water, own and sell water, provide loans and grants, engage in public-private partnerships and negotiate agreements. The authority will not directly operate any water infrastructure.
The authority will have a nine-member board comprised of the director of Environmental Quality, director of Administration, director of Water Resources and six members appointed by the governor to serve staggered five-year terms. Only half of the appointed members can be from the same political party.
“Whomever my successor is will have ample opportunity to ensure water remains abundant in this state,” Ducey said.
Lombard of Valley Partnership says her organization supports Ducey’s efforts to shore up the state’s water supplies.
“Water is the number one issue discussed by the real estate development community in Arizona – from the assured water supply regulations to the Colorado River shortage,” Lombard said. “Our top priority is to enact policies that will promote responsible economic development and maintain our state’s precious resources.”
Relationship with Sonora
One such opportunity which has garnered lots of attention is desalination. Desalination has successfully been used in the Middle East by Israel and Persian Gulf states, who pioneered the technology.
Desalination has traditionally been prohibitively expensive, however improvements in the technology have made the proposal more feasible. The proposal would see desalination plants built in Mexico along with either infrastructure to transport water to Arizona or a cross-border water-sharing agreement.
Relations with Sonora remain strong, despite Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich leaving office.
Ducey and Pavlovich maintained a strong relationship, improving ties between Arizona and Sonora.
“That relationship [with Mexico] is at an all-time high,” Ducey said. “We wouldn’t be having the discussions that we’re having now on what’s possible with Mexico on desalination, otherwise.”
In November, Chamber Business News spoke with Cheryl Lombard about how real estate developers can play a role in Arizona’s long-term water security.