In a Capitol Times op-ed, Rep. Rusty Bowers spelled out the challenges ahead as the state grapples with water scarcity.
Arizona’s “diverse and consensus driven” system for water management is the bedrock upon which the Salt River Valley Water Users Assn., the Groundwater Management Act, the Dept. of Water Resources, the water banking authority, and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District were created, Bowers wrote. Along with the building of the Central Arizona Project canal, the resulting commonsense water management policies are now being put to the test because of drought conditions, he said.
“Reaching a lasting accord on these challenges is not done by one group working the process alone, but by all of us working together to eliminate uncertainty and strengthen our state’s negotiating posture as we prepare to meet the demands of growth,” Bowers said in a not-so-subtle swipe at the process Governor Ducey adopted.
Bowers said stakeholders should strive for five goals: acknowledge successful efforts to leave more than 800,000 acre feet of water behind Hoover Dam, which helped to keep the water level from falling below critical levels; continue to communicate among authorized parties when negotiating interstate agreements; implement agreements and tools that recognize changes of water applications and facilitate conversions from agricultural to other uses (Such conversions, he said, are ready to be adopted by rulemaking, but are languishing.); find ways to mitigate the effects on agricultural interests in central Arizona, who will be the first ones to face water reductions if Colorado River supplies drop; and agree rural county water concerns can be addressed using good scientific data to guide regulation when necessary.
“Challenges within rural basins and with Colorado River right holders will only be addressed through thoughtful discussions and decisions. Large, wealthier areas of our state are not entitled to mandate away the property rights and concerns of less populated areas,” he said.