As concerns about Arizona’s water supplies grow, both Gov. Katie Hobbs and the GOP-controlled Legislature seek to address the issue during the new legislative session, which began earlier this month.
The historic drought facing the American Southwest has worsened over the last few years, with the new year bringing the potential for water cuts to an increasing number of Arizonans. Due to lowering water levels, Arizona will now receive 21% less water from the Colorado River, one of its primary sources of water. According to federal authorities, drought conditions and overreliance on the river by Arizona and other Western states have brought water levels perilously low.
Hobbs addressed the water worries during her State of the State address last week, referencing “a previously unreleased report by the Arizona Department of Water Resources that shows that portions of Phoenix’s far West Valley are currently short of the 100-year Assured Water Supply Program by 15 percent today. This report unequivocally shows that we have to act now, or this will only be the first new area that faces this kind of shortage.”
The Assured Water Supply Program, implemented by the Arizona Department of Water Resources, is designed to “evaluate the availability of a 100-year water supply considering current and committed demand, as well as growth projections.”
Following the release of the report, Hobbs announced the creation of an Office of Resiliency via executive order.
The office will “coordinate stakeholders among state agencies, tribal governments, universities, organizations and others to address Arizona’s water challenges from a local, state, regional and national level.”
Hobbs also created the Governor’s Water Policy Council, tasked with updating water policy across the state. This includes the Arizona Groundwater Management Act, which has been the backbone of the state’s water supply infrastructure for many years.
The shortage poses a threat to the rapid economic growth Arizona has experienced over the last decade, as developers seek assurance that there is enough groundwater to support residential subdivisions and their water demand.
Business leaders hope that the governor and legislators can reach a solution that balances economic growth and water conservation.
Hobbs’ initiatives to modernize the state’s groundwater laws were met with applause from Valley Partnership, an advocacy group for the commercial, industrial and master planned real estate development industry.
Developers have played a key role in implementing advancements in water conservation and efficiency measures within projects across the state. The organization emphasized the need for additional investments by the public and private sectors to secure and build needed infrastructure to maximize use of existing water supplies and for future water supplies.
“We continue to support the 100-year assured water supply requirement for future development as industry leaders continue to innovate and make advancements in water conservation and efficiency measures,” Valley Partnership President and CEO Cheryl Lombard said. “We appreciate the transparency from Governor Hobbs on the current state of affairs and applaud the governor for announcing key initiatives today that will focus on water use, modernize and expand the Arizona Groundwater Management Act, and provide funds to rural communities to set up Active Management Areas.”