The greater Phoenix region is thriving because we continually plan and invest in our water supply. Today, we must act to protect one of the critical components of this supply – Colorado River water.
The Colorado River collectively accounts for 45 percent of the water our cities deliver to 3.5 million people and to the industries that drive Arizona’s economic engine. This water supply is significantly stressed from 20 years of drought, and the federal government has warned it will step in if our state does not act by January 31 to stabilize the river, a scenario whereby all Arizonans stand to lose.
As mayors of 10 Valley cities, we urge the Arizona Legislature to take swift action to protect our Colorado River supply and state economy by approving the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan (DCP).
We appreciate the leadership of Governor Ducey, Speaker Bowers, legislators, the Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Project working with a broad coalition of stakeholders for months to develop a strategy for implementing DCP in Arizona. DCP requires sacrifices from all water users to prevent far deeper shortages of Colorado River water that would negatively impact the state’s economy. By taking less Colorado River water today, Arizona and the other Colorado River Basin states can significantly reduce the risk of disastrous shortages in the future.
We support the Arizona DCP Implementation Plan as a carefully-crafted compromise to satisfy Arizona’s share of DCP water reductions. Cities are committing substantial resources to the plan. This includes many of our cities agreeing to collectively send 100,000 acre-feet of water to Pinal County farms to help mitigate DCP impacts to Pinal agriculture. We also will see increased costs for our Colorado River water delivered by the Central Arizona Project. The vast majority of the more than $135 million cost for mitigation under the Arizona DCP Implementation Plan will be funded through our residents’ taxes and rates. Under DCP, our cities are agreeing to take reductions in deliveries under water contracts that were acquired at great expense by ratepayers. However, we recognize that these sacrifices are necessary in order to increase the reliability of Arizona’s remaining Colorado River supplies and protect the state as a whole.
Our Valley cities have always been at the forefront of preserving and strengthening our long-term water management. For 50 years, we have collaborated on water issues as the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association. We have individually and collectively invested billions to utilize our Colorado River water and other water resources. Each city has an Assured Water Supply designation to meet the needs of our residents and businesses for the next 100 years and beyond. Recognizing that a shortage on the Colorado River was imminent, we have planned and prepared for years to maximize the use of our water supplies.
Our cities understand that we live in an arid state and have created a conservation ethic here in the Valley. For nearly 40 years, we have achieved Arizona’s mandated conservation requirements and water use reporting. The Valley cities are recognized leaders in water conservation, and we have tailored programs that help our residents and businesses to use water efficiently. Together, we have implemented more than 300 best management practices.
Our vigilance has benefited the whole state. Our cities collectively account for only 11 percent of Arizona’s water use, while serving over 51 percent of our state’s population and ensuring water for the businesses and industries that fuel the economic center for Arizona’s $320 billion GDP.
We look forward to the Arizona Legislature continuing our state’s proud tradition of water stewardship. Arizona’s residents, our way of life and economy need the Legislature to approve DCP as soon as possible to protect our water future.
Kenneth N. Weise is mayor of Avondale; Kevin Hartke, Chandler; Jenn Daniels, Gilbert; Jerry Weiers, Glendale; Georgia Lord, Goodyear; John Giles, Mesa; Cathy Carlat, Peoria; Thelda Williams, Phoenix; W.J. “Jim” Lane, Scottsdale; Mark Mitchell, Tempe.