January 11, 2024 — In Governor Katie Hobbs’ State of the State address on January 8, she discussed several aspects concerning Arizona’s water resources and management (the transcript is available at the Governor’s website). Here is a summary of the key points related to water:
- Water Conservation and Innovation History: Governor Hobbs noted Arizona’s successful history in water conservation and innovation. The state has managed to use less water than in the mid-1950s, despite significant population growth.
- Ongoing Challenges and Conversations: Despite past successes, the Governor emphasized the need for continuous and open discussions about water resources, stressing the importance of not shying away from these challenging but essential conversations.
- Decisive Action and Protection of Water Resources: Hobbs mentioned taking decisive action to protect Arizona’s water future. This includes terminating leases of a corporation in La Paz County found violating their lease agreements, thus preserving water for nearby communities.
- Collaboration and Solution-Finding: The Governor highlighted her commitment to working with various stakeholders, including farmers, urban and rural communities, and regional entities, to secure Arizona’s water future.
- Historic Water Conservation Agreement: Hobbs negotiated an agreement with Nevada and California to conserve at least three million acre-feet of water by 2026, a move to counteract federal plans to cut Arizona’s water supply. This agreement is seen as crucial in safeguarding the state’s natural resources.
- Call for More Action: Despite this agreement, Hobbs emphasized the ongoing need for additional efforts, including public-private partnerships, increased conservation, exploring new technology, and reinforcing protections.
- Bipartisan Water Policy Council: The Governor mentioned the Water Policy Council she created, which has proposed commonsense recommendations for securing Arizona’s water future.
- Groundwater Management and Legal Reforms: Hobbs called for courage to update groundwater management laws, giving rural Arizonans a say in water use, and closing loopholes in development laws that circumvent consumer protections for water availability.
- New Program for Water Providers: A new program, the Alternative Designation of Water Resources, was announced. This aims to enable water providers historically reliant on groundwater to achieve a 100-year assured water supply, by contributing new water sources and reducing groundwater pumping.
- Collaborative Efforts and Legislation: Lastly, Governor Hobbs emphasized the need for collaborative efforts across party lines to protect and manage Arizona’s water supply effectively, stating her readiness to work with legislators to pass necessary laws.
As Arizona Public Radio’s KJZZ reported, groundwater regulations are likely to meet resistance from the State’s rural stakeholders. Rep. Gail Griffin, Sen. Sine Kerr and the head of the Arizona Farm Bureau have been opposed to regulations proposed by the Governor’s Water Policy Council due to a lack of consideration for agricultural interests and rural economies.