Auditor General: Hit by recession, Arizona’s water department 10 years behind

Wetlands /Contributed by Arizona Department of Water Resources

 

By Elizabeth Whitman | Phoenix New Times

A decade after the recession cut its budget and staffing to the bone, the state agency tasked with making sure Arizona has a solid water supply is 10 years behind in key elements of groundwater management, according to a recent report by the state auditor general’s office.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources also failed at times to follow up with well owners and drillers who did not file mandatory reports, or with people who could be pumping groundwater but not reporting it. Meanwhile, its most recent report on municipal water conservation was published in October 2011 — nearly eight years ago — despite a statutory mandate to put out the report every three years, according to the 43-page report published in late January.

The failings laid out by the auditor general were primarily procedural, but these gross delays and lapses in reporting could nevertheless hinder the state’s long-term water management. They also reflected the heavy toll of the 2008 economic recession on the department.

“We’re woefully behind,” said Kathy Ferris, a former director of the Department of Water Resources and an architect of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act. Without updating groundwater management plans, the department had no way to assess how it was doing its job, Ferris said.

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