State Lawmakers Urge Gov. Hobbs to Protect Arizona’s Water Supply from the Colorado River

A group of Republican lawmakers, including Representatives Gail Griffin (R-Hereford), Lupe Diaz (R-Benson), and Senator Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye), sent Governor Katie Hobbs (D) a letter Friday, requesting that she stick up for Arizona’s water future and defend access to the Colorado River.

“Under the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) Action Alternative 1 for allocating cuts on the Colorado River, which allocates cuts based strictly on the seniority of rights, Arizona’s citizens that rely on the Central Arizona Project will see dramatic reductions, potentially cutting them off from the Colorado River completely,” the legislators wrote. “With our state’s population and economic prosperity on the line, protecting our state’s share of the Colorado River from the looming risk of complete disconnection is paramount.”

This BOR proposal mentioned by the lawmakers aims to cut how much water basin states are using from the Colorado River because if Lake Powell and Mead recede further, it could jeopardize the use of hydraulic power. BOR may cut at least 2.1 million acre-feet of water, or roughly 684 billion gallons of water, from basin state usage to accomplish this goal. The cut would either hit all entities using the water, like farms, cities, and tribes, evenly or divide amounts by seniority, so major basin cities like Phoenix or Los Angeles would shoulder the brunt of the cuts.

According to the lawmakers, the basin states attempted to create their plan to decide how to cut their water supply; however, they ran into trouble. As reported by The Washington Post, six-basin states, including Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, agreed to a “Consensus-Based Modeling Alternative” to the BOR’s proposals. Under this agreement, basin states would face roughly 1.5 million acre-feet cuts to use from the lakes. If the Lake Mead levels continued to drop even after initial reductions, the plan would have required Arizona, California, and Nevada to make additional cuts.

However, California did not agree to this plan. Ultimately, because the basin states could not present an agreed-upon solution by February 2023, the BOR is taking matters into its own hands to ensure the water cuts happen.

The lawmakers said this puts Arizona at the mercy of the federal government to decide how to make the cuts. Because Arizona farmers in Yuma provide the vast majority of leafy greens produced in the nation during winter months, the legislators said Hobbs needs to ensure the water they use gets defended. The BOR is taking public comments on the proposals until May 30th, which allows Hobbs to provide authoritative input on behalf of the state.

“Submitting robust comments in response to the BOR’s proposed alternatives and recruiting public comments from other interested stakeholders in Arizona who could be impacted by the BOR’s decision should be among our state’s top priorities at this time,” wrote Griffin, Diaz, and Kerr.

Furthermore, the lawmakers also presented Hobbs with gripes regarding Attorney General Kris Mayes and her recent interactions with the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR). In April, Mayes sent ADWR Director Thomas Buschatzke two letters, urging him to conduct reviews of Arizona’s groundwater outside of active management and to “more closely” monitor applications for deep-water wells.

However, the lawmakers wrote that the Attorney General lacks statutory authority to direct ADWR priorities. Expressly, under Arizona law, the Legislature has declared it is in the best interest of the state that it should be responsible for determining the most beneficial uses of state groundwater. The lawmakers emphasized that any future “policy-driven discussions” should occur in the open, not the “politicized demand letters” from state leaders.

As reported by The Sun Times, Griffin and Kerr chair the new Joint Legislative Study Committee on Water Security.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Gail Griffin” by Arizona House Republicans. Photo “Lupe Diaz” by Lupe Diaz. Photo “Sine Kerr” by Arizona State Legislature. Background Photo “Colorado River” by kasabubu.


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