Friday, October 23, 2009

What could additional budget cuts do to Arizona Dept. of Water Resources (ADWR)?

Responding to reports that state tax receipts have been running $0.5 billion below projections and the ongoing fact that our state government is unwilling and/or incapable of putting together a complete state budget for the current fiscal year, our governor has asked all state agencies to present plans detailing how they might cut an additional 15% from their budgets for the remainder of this fiscal year (until the end of June 2010). The agency that manages our water supplies has submitted their plan, which they posted on their website here (pdf document).

I am not personally aligned with any political party and am perfectly willing to criticize any politician, from any party, who advocates bad policy, resorts to fear-mongering, and otherwise panders to various vested interests, be they democrat, republican, or Bull Moose. But Arizona is currently controlled by republicans and we can only wish these were the republicans of Barry Goldwater's day. These are the kind of republicans who resolutely place ideology over common sense no matter how stubborn and stupid it makes them look (ok, there are a few moderates still in there, but they're pretty marginalized most of the time). My point is, these are the kind of people who believe the state government shouldn't be wasting tax dollars collecting basic hydrologic information. Number one - decent, god-fearing Arizona landowners don't need the government telling them how to use and manage their water. Number two - if data is so vital, there should be private sector entities that can step up and pay for it's collection. And finally - let the federal government pay to collect the data if it's really that important, just don't use that data to tell the state how to manage our water.

So what will we have to do? The report spells it out in pretty stark terms. Admittedly, the document produced by ADWR is intended to strike fear in the hearts of those who control the purse strings but with the cuts they have already endured, another 15% will absolutely cripple the ability of that agency to adequately provide management of our increasingly strained water supplies.

The plan includes eliminating the Statewide Planning Division, and reducing the Hydrology, Surface Water, and Water Management Divisions. Follow the links if you want to learn more about what those parts of ADWR do, but just as a starter those are basically all the main functions of the Department.

The Statewide Planning Division (SPD), in particular will be a huge loss. There is precious little data about water supplies and water uses in areas of the state outside of the Active Management Areas (AMA) - the rural parts of the state. The primary entity for collecting this data and helping those areas - where constraints on water supplies are often very significant because they don't have access to Colorado River water from the CAP canal - is SPD. Without them the task of developing management strategies for water supplies in those areas will fall on local entities, which have very few resources for those tasks as well as some vested interests that would prefer not to have the bad news that data might bring.

The other Divisions, which aren't being eliminated but are being cut to levels where their effectiveness will be greatly reduced, are responsible for administering surface water rights in the state, developing management plans for the AMAs, and collecting basic data to support all the other programs ADWR handles. I don't want to contend that these functions are more important than education and services for poor people (also being hammered by the current budget situation), but as someone who relies on the data and programs of ADWR for much of what I do this is grim news indeed.

2 comments:

Delbert Grady said...

Chris,

Great post. AZ along with many other states are running in the red. It's a sign of the times. I totally agree with your assessment of the political mindset here. Republicans tend to think that the private sector can and should be conducting work that had been done by governmental agencies. The cuts proposed in the document are deep but are most likely a compromise on what could have been done. I find it interesting that the document talked about BuRec funding for water programs. I'm guessing that this is a reference to water 2025 funds that the bureau has to encourage water conservation.

Anyway, great post.

Chris Brooks said...

They're gonna have to leverage all the federal funding they can find to continue doing any work outside of the AMAs. But most of that money requires local cost-sharing - I know some of the programs they have been doing with the USGS would likely end for that reason. Let's hope they won't have to cut all that they proposed.