Saturday, April 13, 2013

Yumans shoot down Water Augmentation plans

Way back in 2010 the Arizona state legislature, responding to widespread concerns that the state would run out of water in the future, created a study commission called the Water Resources Development Commission (WRDC).  They set to work studying current and projected water demands, available water supplies, and the institutions in place that try to match up the two sides of the equation.

They released the initial report on their findings in 2011 - this was mostly the technical/data summary portion, but needed to go back the following year to evaluate the need to implement statutory changes to implement their recommendations.  One of the major things they recommended was to establish Regional Water Augmentation Authorities.  From the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) news release:

[The Commission] recommends the formation of Regional Water Augmentation Authorities to assist communities in developing future water supplies and infrastructure.  Membership in the Regional Water Augmentation Authorities is proposed to be voluntary and may include Arizona cities, towns, private water utilities, other statutorily defined water providers, private entities, counties and State, Tribal and Federal entities.  The WRDC also identified current funding options available to the Regional Water Augmentation Authorities to meet the needs of their members.
This was not exactly revolutionary stuff.  These are the kind of governing bodies set up to manage funding and construction of sewer infrastructure, transportation projects, and similar essential community needs that are too big for a city to manage, not appropriate for a state agency (ADWR) to manage, and need to be done with just the right amount of political influence and public scrutiny.

So in the current legislative session a bill was introduced (HB2338) that would provide statutory authority for the creation of these entities.  These entities would be authorized to issue bonds and receive loans from a Water Supply Development Revolving Fund (previously established but waiting for funding, which was also to be forthcoming this year) in order to eventually build projects.  The funding would only be $30 million to start, which isn't going to run much pipeline, but it would be a start at least and the general idea was that as loans were paid off the fund would be self-replenishing and could eventually be added to as needed.  The revolving fund has been around since about 2007/8, sitting unfunded as the legislature worked through an ongoing budget crisis.  Getting some money in it would be a huge step forward.

This plan would not create any water, but it's a vehicle for obtaining water in parts of the state that might need some in the next 20 years.  Probably the first two projects that would be considered under this scheme are various ideas for bringing new water to the Sierra Vista area (fairly large pdf) and the Prescott area (see some of my previous posts for some background).

So where might some of this water come from?  The same place all new water in the state has come from for the last 40 years - the Colorado River.  Arizona's entitlement from the river is 2.8 million acre-feet.  Currently about 60% of that amount is funneled to the central part of the state via the Central Arizona Project (CAP).  The rest is used on-river by Indian tribes and irrigation districts in the Yuma area.  Some years those on-river users don't take all the water they're entitled to, which frees it up for the CAP to divert to the rest of the state (if they have capacity).  The CAP would like to get permanent rights to that water and to any other water they can free up and fit in their canal.

When farmers who have senior water rights hear rumblings of city-folk making designs to acquire new water, they get nervous.  Fortunately they have guys like Wade Noble and Don Shooter looking our for their interests.  Noble is an attorney who represents pretty much every irrigation district and power coop in the Yuma area.  Shooter is their state senator (he's also a strong advocate for school choice and opposed to bullying).  These guys have alerted the local community to this existential threat to their livelihoods and Shooter has effectively bottled up HB2338, ensuring that it stays in committee in the House.  So I guess the people of Sierra Vista and Prescott will have to wait another year or more to begin their efforts to suck the life-giving water supplies from the Colorado River to support their endless dreams of growth.

1 comment:

holterbarbour said...

Wow, that's a double-take headline if I ever saw one: "Report: Arizona Sen. Shooter burst into grandson’s class"