Who’s calling the shots in Arizona water now, and where will they take us?

Will Thelander’s family farm in Pinal County, Ariz. had to shrink by half as farmers there lost all of their Colorado River water supply due to mandated cuts.|| NPR

Opinion: There are a lot of new(er) voices at the proverbial water negotiating table. How does Arizona unify them to move past the status quo?

By Joanna Allhands ||The Arizona Republic

Now might be a good time to take stock of who is calling the shots in water.

Because leadership matters. And Arizona’s water leadership is in flux.

Several key players in water have retired

Some of the state’s most experienced voices have retired in the last few months, including:

Ted Cooke, who led the Central Arizona Project, which delivers Colorado River water to tribes, farmers and some of the state’s largest cities. Cooke initially feuded with state water director Tom Buschatzke over the Drought Contingency Plan, but they buried the hatchet – and inspired other typically opposing interests to agree to deeper water cuts in that deal.

Jim Holway, one of 15 elected directors that set policy for the Central Arizona Project. Holway spent more than a decade as assistant director of the state water department as it worked to implement groundwater management legislation. He was later a consistent voice for sustainability on the CAP board, a long-term thinker who regularly asked some of the most insightful questions.

Dave Roberts, who helped ensure that Salt River Project has enough water to serve metro Phoenix. Roberts helped negotiate some of the state’s most monumental tribal water rights settlements, but there were few water issues across the state in which he wasn’t involved behind-the-scenes.

Lisa Otondo, who represented Yuma farmers and water users in the Legislature. In one of her final acts as a senator, she was a key force in securing additional transparency measures and funding for water conservation as part of an effort to expand the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority.

Smart folks are filling their shoes


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February 2023