Arizona Town Hall

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The 107th Arizona Town Hall recently wrapped up and focused on sustaining Arizona’s water supplies.

Andy Groseta, a rancher from Cottonwood who also serves on the Verde Watershed Association, and

Kevin Moran, senior director with the Environmental Defense Fund, both participated in town hall and will tell us about the final report.

TED SIMONS: The 107th Arizona town tall look a look at sustaining the state's water supplies. Here to talk about that are two of the town hall participants, Andy Groseta, a rancher from Cottonwood who also serves on the Verde Watershed Association and Kevin Moran, senior director with the Environmental Defense Fund. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us as far as the town hall looking at water supplies, there's so much to look at. What was the focus here?

ANDY GROSETA: Well, I think the focus was number one I think all of us recognize the fact that Arizona today is really in pretty good shape thanks to the efforts of many of our leaders in the past that made bold decisions and so I don't think we're in the bind that California is, but I think that the consensus of the town hall is what are we going to do in Arizona moving forward? How to protect our water supplies, how do you create new sources of water? And really for the next 50 to 100 years, and I think that is going to take some strategic thinking and some bold action taken by not only the citizens but our elected leaders.

TED SIMONS: Is there a strategic vision for moving forward?

KEVIN MORAN: Well, I think there is a vision. It's the Arizona strategic vision for water supply sustainability the department of water resources and Governor Ducey has a water initiative that's very important and needs to be supported. As Andy indicated, we're not in a water crisis today but we have to take action now to make sure that the Arizona water story remains a good one and part of that is to address some current pressing issues. That includes concerns about depletion of groundwater in a lot of parts of Arizona where we need to bring some new solutions to the table and secondly, the Colorado River is over allocated. We're using more than the river system supplies. We need to support efforts to do more conservation, efficiency and water management innovation that will make sure we can benefit from our Colorado River water rights.

TED SIMONS: Groundwater management act, though, was supposed to help with groundwater concerns in Arizona. It has helped hasn't it?

ANDY GROSETA: Yes, it has. And with the groundwater management act, it created the department of water resources so now we do have a state agency that's a clearinghouse. It administers all of the water issues in our state. Through the groundwater management act, it created A.M.A.'s for the metropolitan areas and that's good, although, you know, all of those folks in those areas need to have 100 year assured water supply but outside of the A.M.A., that's people like me in rural Arizona and the Verde Valley, the counties around the state, they have been doing some studies and some planning. Yavapai county, for instance, created a water advisory committee where they had stakeholders, private citizens, municipalities, folks from the county, irrigation users, ranchers, to discuss all the water issues in Yavapai county and there was millions of dollars spent up there, funds provided by the county, by the municipalities and also, the bureau of reclamation, the USGS to number one find out how much water do we have on hand both surface water and groundwater, and what are we going to do based on future growth on bringing in new sources of water? That gets into augmentation. We can talk about that in a minute.

TED SIMONS: We can talk about augmentation as far as new water supplies, graywater, reclaimed water, desalination, are all these things on the table?

KEVIN MORAN: All of those things are on the table and need to be. We need to also make some hard choices and look carefully and make sure we make choices that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. A lot of people talk about desalination. It's probably part of our future but it is not the panacea that some people think it is because it's very expensive and it doesn't produce the amount of water that you think it does. So we need to start by thinking about providing the tools and resources that local communities in Arizona, to provide locally supported solutions to their water issues and start by making more efficient use of the resources we have. We do have an issue with overuse of the Colorado River in the lower basin. Through conservation, water management innovation, and the kind of efficiencies that we've seen develop in the past, we need to do even more with that and make sure that Arizona benefits from its Colorado River supplies.

TED SIMONS: As far as what we see now, you've mentioned the department of water resources, is that department adequately funded? Are water concerns in Arizona adequately funded and if not, is there a chance they will be?

ANDY GROSETA: Well, the answer is no. That's part of the problem. They've been charged with the responsibility to administer all the water issues in our state and they're handicapped. They don't have the financial resources to hire the personnel, number one, retain who they've got and go out and hire bright young people to work with us. We have the general adjudication process that's been going on for about 40 years now and hopefully, I'll live long enough to see the end of that, I doubt that I will but it's a long grind. But it all comes down to money and so one of the high priorities that came out of the town hall is we need to get the Department of Water Resources funded probably. One thing that was discussed in our panel and it was a new source of funding. And that would be, you know, we always talk about the easy thing to do is tax ourselves, have a tax on a bottle of water, create an assessment district, taxing districts, create new sources of revenue. But in Arizona we're blessed, we have the world's largest ponderosa pine forest in the world and several national forests in our state. That's a resource that we all own but I can tell you that two things should happen there. We need to thin some trees to create more water yield and increase our water quality but also we have millions of acres of federal lands and why can't we sell a few acres of those federal lands, we have literally millions of acres and generate new sources of revenue for all kinds of issues? They've done this in Nevada, Harry Reid has done this, they have sold $4 billion worth of federal lands in Nevada and I think we could do the same in Arizona. It would be a new funding source for the department of water resources to build new infrastructure for water, etc.

TED SIMONS: Is that viable as far as you're concerned?

KEVIN MORAN: We need to have appropriate funding levels for the department of water resources. There's a range of things we need to look at. There are a number I would look at before selling federal lands. What's really important is that we find a way to get the next generation of Arizona water policy decisions made. We need political leadership, we need an engaged populace. We need to expect more of our political leadership around water issues. These issues aren't going away and we need to do better so that our economy has the water it needs and we have the water to conserve areas that make Arizona special.

TED SIMONS: All right. Good discussion. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

ANDY GROSETA: Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon," Anne Romney, wife of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney will talk about her new book about her experiences living with multiple sclerosis. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Kevin Moran: Senior Director with the Environmental Defense Fund; Andy Groseta: rancher from Cottonwood on Verde Watershed Association

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