As election season heats up, politicians and activists are voicing their opinions on how elected officials can work together toward a solution to the drought plaguing the state.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake says she is committed to a three-step plan to tackle the drought, according to a spokesperson. This plan includes conservation, water swaps and leases, as well as managing current resources. She said she plans to increase the storage capacity of the Salt and Verde rivers, lining and covering canals, creating more wells to better capture groundwater and building desalination facilities for brackish water.
As for long term solutions, Lake says she plans to seek a new, sustainable source of fresh water. Her spokesperson said Lake is “committed to exploring every possible opportunity to do so and pushing to secure unified action with our federal, state and international partners.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs, the current secretary of state, laid out a multi-step plan on how she would resolve the drought. This plan is called Resilient Arizona.
“The water crisis we’re facing today is the result of years of elected leaders kicking the can down the road, and now requires immediate and discerning action from Arizona’s next governor,” Hobbs’ spokesperson said.
Hobbs has said she plans to create a task force of experts, which she plans to call the Water and Energy Innovation Initiative. She also has said she plans to modernize the Arizona Groundwater Management Act, which was passed in 1980. In doing this she said she hopes to improve water access to rural communities by creating locally tailored water conservation and management programs. These programs would be state funded and supported.
Hobbs also said she plans to expand water reuse efforts in Arizona. She said she wants to utilize the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) to expand water reuse in the state. She said she will give grants to Arizonans to help them utilize these reuse efforts. Finally, she says she plans to utilize “tens of millions of dollars” from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to ensure water is clean and safe to consume.
The Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter in Arizona works to protect national parks, forests, wildlife habitats and bodies of water, including tackling the drought.
Grand Canyon Chapter Director Sandy Bahr said she prefers the term aridity to drought, because drought implies a temporary issue. Bahr predicts that Arizona’s dry conditions will be a permanent issue. She said droughts, flooding and wildfires are caused by climate change. Bahr called climate change a public health emergency that will make living in Arizona more expensive and more deadly for humans and wildlife.
She encouraged residents to “embrace the desert lifestyle,” saying acres of green turf are not sustainable in the Sonoran Desert. Bahr also encouraged Arizonans to urge their local members of Congress to focus on advocating for water conservation.
“We’ve seen the number of Republicans who are advocating for environmental protection take a dive,” she said. “At the Arizona Legislature, you can’t get a climate bill heard, let alone passed, and then the only ones that pass are the ones … where they don’t talk about climate change.”
Though Bahr’s hopes of getting Republicans to support action against climate change have dwindled, conservative environmentalists are beginning to take a stand. The Western Way, an organization that describes itself as “conservative stewards of the western environment,” aims to convince people of all political backgrounds about the environmental benefits of sustainability. The Western Way hopes to see Democrats and Republicans working together on environmental related policies.