Arizona’s first ever statewide study projecting water use praised by conservation group

Report shows need to ensure future water supplies, protect natural resources

October 6, 2011
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(Phoenix—October 6, 2011) The first ever statewide report projecting Arizona’s water supplies and demands over the next century is a key first step to “ensure that physical limits to water supplies don’t limit Arizona’s economic prosperity or the legacy of its natural resources,” according to Environmental Defense Fund.

“This is the kind of forward-looking process that is needed for Arizona to ensure that it has secure water supplies for the future of its communities and natural resources, including its desert rivers and streams,” said Jocelyn Gibbon, a Phoenix-based water law attorney for the Colorado River program at Environmental Defense Fund. “It also shows the need for a robust, well-funded Department of Water Resources to take a leadership role in developing creative solutions for the future. We need to ensure that physical limits to water supplies don’t limit Arizona’s economic prosperity or the legacy of natural resources that we leave to our kids.”

The report, scheduled to be released today by the state’s Water Resources Development Commission (WRDC) to the Arizona legislature, projects annual water use in the state could grow steadily from current levels of about 7.1 million acre-feet to between 9.9 to 10.6 million acre-feet per year in 2110, a jump of nearly 40 to 50 percent.

“Water is an essential element to Arizona’s prosperity…It is clear that meeting the demand for additional water supplies in the 21st century requires inventive action to be taken and consideration of new ways to expand supplies,” the report concludes. “Arizona must develop a broad portfolio of solutions to meet the myriad of challenges that are inherent in this diverse state. Finally, decisions must be made regarding what solutions will be most effective in discrete regions, how those solutions will be funded, and whether implementation of the solutions requires legislative changes.”

Last year, the Arizona legislature passed House Bill 2661, which created the WRDC to assess the current and future water needs of Arizona.

The Commission’s tasks include:

  1. Considering the projected water needs of each Arizona county in the next 25, 50, and 100 years
  2. Identifying current and potential future supplies and the legal and technical issues associated with their development
  3. Identifying possible financing mechanisms for acquisition, treatment and delivery of water supplies
  4. Making recommendations regarding further studies and evaluations

The final report released today includes data and reports from five committees, recommendations related to future studies and evaluations, and the suggestion that the Commission continue to meet.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the Arizona Department of Water Resources and stakeholders for their efforts in developing the report information quickly and cooperatively under a tight deadline. EDF made particular mention of the work of the Environmental Working Group established by the Commission, which mapped and catalogued natural resources in Arizona that are dependent on water.

“The county-by-county inventory of natural resources dependent on water begins to illustrate how much the continued flow of water in rivers, streams, and other natural features means to the state,” concluded Gibbon. “Arizona’s incredibly rich and diverse ecosystems depend on reliable water supplies, as do communities across the state. We have a lot of work to do to prevent those supplies from being depleted.”

The report identifies some next steps that could be taken towards planning for the state’s water future, including evaluating the effectiveness of alternative water supply solutions for diverse areas of the state, and incorporating information about water for rivers and natural resources into future planning. The current report does not evaluate risks to these natural resources.