Water bill allows some counties to get around water supply requirements

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A new bill introduced to the state legislature would give some leniency around the requirement that every county in the state has a water plan that provides water for a minimum of 100 years.

“The bill is a conglomeration of proposals,” says Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-District 25. “Sen. Griffin is from Cochise County which passed an assured water supply requirement by the county board of supervisors. The nature of the bill that’s probably the biggest sticking point is between us and the administration. It’s kind of like the Hotel California, you can check in any time you like but you can never leave.”

Every county is currently required to have a 100-year supply of renewable water or groundwater that’s being replaced. The requirements are part of what is referred to as AMAs – Active Management Areas. The assured water supply program is focused on preserving limited groundwater supplies within the AMAs, while the adequate water supply program acts as a consumer advisory program and an aid to real estate buyers.

Bowers says the thought process behind these programs is “local areas, local water,” and that the measure would help guarantee water for future generations and preserves hot areas for conversation along the San Pedro.

Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources Thomas Buschatzke says he’s not a fan of how the bill allows a way for counties to opt out of requirements. “I agree with Representative Bowers that there’s sufficient physical water under the ground,” says Buschatzke. “The question is who has a right to pump it or who has a right to protect that water supply… It’s a legal issue. There are three prongs to the requirements – there’s legal availability, physical availability, and continuous availability. Clearly they can meet the physical, but it’s the legal availability that’s in question because of the San Pedro being in a conservation area.”

When it comes to Lake Mead’s water crisis, Buschatzke says the important piece his department believes is missing from that legislation is the Arizona Conservation Plan. It would create a tool and reaffirm existing tools that could help water stay in the lake.

Rep. Rusty Bowers: (R) District 25
Thomas Buschatzke: Director, AZ Dept. of Water Resources

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