Arizona governor outlines plan to boost water supply


PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and a top leader of the state legislature on Friday completed a key part of a development plan to boost growing water supplies tense of the desert state.

They plan to create a state agency to acquire new supplies and develop and fund projects, with deep pockets and the authority to go out and find sources that can secure the state’s water future. . One potential project is a multi-billion dollar desalination plant in Mexico, but many others are also under consideration, along with efforts to conserve existing supplies.

The proposed new Arizona Water Authority would be funded with an initial investment of $1 billion and would have the power to borrow money and issue bonds to fund larger projects. Some of the money will be earmarked for cities and towns and even private water companies for smaller local projects.

The western United States is in the midst of a prolonged drought and Arizona has already absorbed reductions in Colorado River water allocation that have forced some farmers to leave their fields fallow. Other cuts are likely missing from a major climate change.

The Republican governor worked on the plan with House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate Speaker Karen Fann, both also Republicans. Bowers has been sounding the alarm about the state’s water supply for years and trying to come up with a comprehensive plan to address the long-term problem.

Bowers said in an interview that the specific details of the projects that were on the table were deliberately sparse.

“It’s not meant to be exhaustive,” Bowers said. “We don’t have a specific project because…we’re not trying to catch up with a project that’s on offer and we’re not trying to limit the scope per se of the projects that might be available.”

Instead, the agency is designed to look at multiple solutions, including local projects like treating brackish groundwater. Larger projects such as the development of supply in three isolated desert valleys that have been identified for decades as potential sources for Metro Phoenix and the negotiation of out-of-state water will fall directly under the jurisdiction of the new water authority.

Bowers said the bill was circulated to majority Republican lawmakers on Friday and meetings would begin on Monday to gather feedback and firm up the plan.

“We want feedback. We want to see where the weaknesses are,” Bowers said. “And if it turns out there are too many, then we don’t do it that way.”

The state already has major water agencies, including the Department of Water Resources and an agency that stores groundwater in the central part of the state. Additionally, the Central Arizona Project operates a massive canal and reservoir system that brings water from the Colorado River to Phoenix and Tucson, the state’s two major metropolitan areas.

The new agency will be different. Its role will be to buy water in the West, to partner with private companies to develop, store and transport these supplies and to use the financial weight of the State to carry out these projects.

The public agency will be overseen by a bipartisan board, the majority of which will be appointed by the governor from people familiar with water issues and with strict rules on conflicts of interest. Any spending over $100 million will have to be approved by a special legislative committee.

“It’s going to be a project over time,” Ducey told reporters. “This is how we approach the next 100 years in Arizona.”

Bowers said time is running out.

“Given the tub ring on Lake Mead,” Bowers said, “I want to put something in place that can be a partner in those efforts, and it has to happen pretty quickly. As in, quick.


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