Governor Hobbs Announces Actions to Modernize Arizona’s Groundwater Management

Published by The Bee News

January 9, 2023

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Move Comes Moments After Releasing Drastic Forecast On Phoenix’s Water Supply

PHOENIX — Governor Katie Hobbs took a step in fulfilling her promise of transparency in her administration, unsealing an until-now unreleased report that Phoenix’s West Valley is short of its 100-year supply of water required by law. She followed the drastic announcement with an Executive Order to modernize Arizona’s groundwater management.

“I do not understand, and do not in any way agree with, my predecessor choosing to keep this report from the public and from members of this legislature. However, my decision to release this report signals how I plan to tackle our water issues openly and directly,” Governor Hobbs said in her State of the State Address.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources reported the Lower Hassayampa sub-basin that encompasses the far West Valley of Phoenix is projected to have a total unmet demand of 4.4 million acre-feet over a 100-year period. The bottom line: the Arizona Department of Water Resources cannot approve the development of subdivisions reliant on groundwater.

“We must talk about the challenge of our time: Arizona’s decades-long drought, over usage of the Colorado River, and the combined ramifications on our water supply, our forests, and our communities,” Governor Hobbs said.

The Governor outlined short- and long-term solutions in her address.

First, a new office dedicated to water, energy and land use solutions: the Governor’s Office of Resiliency. It 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.

The Governor issued an Executive Order to establish the Governor’s Water Policy Council, tasked with modernizing the Arizona Groundwater Management Act – the state’s playbook for protecting its groundwater. The group will update groundwater management tools and protect groundwater –  which serves as 41 percent of the state’s water supply.

The critical need for these updates: closing groundwater poaching loopholes.

There are effectively no restrictions on groundwater pumping and lack of support for smaller communities.

“This is why you see a Saudi Arabian conglomerate pumping local groundwater nearly unchecked in La Paz County today, to grow water-intensive crops and send them to the other side of the planet,” the governor said.

Governor Hobbs previewed her executive budget proposal which intends to allocate funds to help rural communities strike a balance between usage and recharging aquifers through Active Management Areas.

In her State of the State Address, the governor urged to follow in the footsteps of Arizona’s leaders who have reached across the aisle for decades to find pragmatic solutions for “a drought unlike anything in modern times.”

Additional cuts to Colorado River water went into effect at the start of the year. Arizona must slash 21 percent of its water use from the river that provides water to seven states. That’s 592,000-acre-feet a year, or the water usage of more than 2 million Arizona households a year.

“This should be a wake-up call for all of us, because it will take all of us to solve it,” Governor Hobbs said, calling on legislators, public officials and the business community to commit to the partnerships needed to make a difference.

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