Governor signs $1.2 billion water plan as Arizona faces budget cuts

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation Wednesday that will bring in $1.2 billion over three years to boost long-term water supplies for the desert state and conduct conservation efforts that will have more immediate effects.

The legislation passed for months during the legislative session just concluded is considered the most important since the state introduced a groundwater protection plan in 1980.

Climate change and a nearly 30-year drought forced the move, which comes as Arizona faces cuts to its Colorado River water supply and more looms. The Central Arizona Project’s canal system is already supplying less water from the river to metro Phoenix, Pinal County and Tucson, and federal officials are warning of even steeper cuts soon.

“These challenges made it necessary for us to intervene,” the Republican governor said at a signing ceremony in the historic Capitol rotunda. “So today we are taking action to do what the men and women of Arizona hired us to do: position our state for success today, tomorrow and for generations to come.”

Legislation announced by Ducey in January to allow the Department of Water Resources to oversee the investments changed over the session and now gives an obscure state entity the power to borrow a new $1 billion loan. use and share.

The entity will be called the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority which will now be a standalone agency overseen by a new board and part of the legislature.

Democrats got the majority of Republicans and the governor to agree to add $200 million for conservation; money that can be used directly for both agricultural efficiency and water conservation in urban areas.

“Our state faces the realities of climate change, an overpopulated Colorado River and dwindling groundwater,” said Senator Rebecca Rios, the Senate minority leader. “This bill ultimately creates a financial structure to help meet the diverse needs of both urban and rural Arizona.”

Reginald Bolding, leader of the House Minority, ticked off a list of measures the new water conservation fund could pay for: groundwater replenishment, drought-resistant landscaping, watershed protection and efficiency upgrades, as well as rainwater harvesting on the roof.

Longer term investments range from pie in the sky to conservative. They include a channel and pipeline to move floodwaters from eastern Kansas to southern Colorado and to watersheds terminating in Arizona, and a nascent plan to attempt to treat and swap wastewater in Southern California for a help finance part of that state’s river supply.

Ducey started the year touting a massive new desalination plant that would increase the state’s water supply, but didn’t mention it in Wednesday’s formal comments. Or he said earlier today on KTAR radio that he hopes to have struck a deal by the end of his term in January to build a factory, likely to be in Mexico, and use water trading to extract more water. clearing the Colorado River for Arizona. The plant could cost more than $5 billion.

Republican Rep. Gail Griffin called the legislation “historic” with a view to doing much more than just increasing the state’s water supply, but also replenishing aquifers and decreasing water use to preserve it for later.

“This is an action plan, it’s just not going to be shelved. We’re going to use it and do great things with it,” she said. “We have money to bring new water to the state of Arizona. We have funding to address best management practices in our provinces, in our cities.”

This story was updated to correct that the pipeline will move flooding from eastern Kansas, not western Kansas.

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