Keeping Water Flowing: The 2015 SRP Forum 6/9/15
I’d like to begin by acknowledging SRP, Roc Arnett and the entire East Valley Partnership for hosting this important forum and for the invitation to be a part of it.
This is a great opportunity to discuss one of the most crucial policies issues facing Arizona --- our water future --- and to ensure we’re doing everything we can as a group to keep us on the right path forward.
As I stand here among these incredible community leaders, policy shapers, business minds and experts, I’m optimistic about the direction we’re headed.
I believe the vitality of our state – as with any business or organization – comes from sound management principles, responsible decision-making and finding smart solutions to complex problems.
That’s especially true when it comes to job growth and economic development.
It’s no accident that --- in the past several weeks --- two of the world’s top credit rating services have upgraded Arizona’s credit outlook, and just last month, S&P assigned us the strongest rating we’ve had since 2008.
It’s also no accident that international companies want to do business here.
Families and businesses across the world know they can come to Arizona – the heart of the southwest – and lead successful lives in our vibrant and growing economy.
I’m proud to say that our state is once again synonymous with opportunity.
Now it’s up to us, all of us, to keep it that way.
I believe a thriving future for Arizona is dependent on a few key concepts.
Most importantly, we cannot spend what we don’t have. This was the basis for finally getting our state budget in balance, and the main reason our financial condition is positive today.
We must keep this in mind, we must use reliable facts, we must learn from our past, we must save where we can, and we must work together.
This is true of any decision we make as policy makers and public servants.
But it’s especially imperative when we talk about the historic and often contentious issue of water in Arizona.
Water is one of the most dynamic components of our state, and a vital factor in the health and strength of our economy.
Historically, it’s been imperative that Arizona fight for our fair share of this precious resource – and that we use what we do have efficiently, intelligently and profitably.
And thanks to tough, pragmatic and inspiring leaders of our past, Arizona is sufficiently prepared to face the challenges that exist as we enter our sixteenth year of drought in the west.
Our predecessors had the courage, the good sense and the foresight to make difficult decisions long before this point.
It’s no accident that Arizona is not facing the same challenges that face California at this time. Instead, Arizona stands where California could have been – had they taken our path decades ago.
Great leaders like Carl Hayden, Mo Udall, John Rhodes, Bruce Babbitt, Stan Turley, Jon Kyl and others understood and respected our dry climate.
They knew drought was not only possible, but probable.
They knew their future - and our future - would be tied to the choices they made.
We should be grateful they made the hard decisions … because they’ve helped make Arizona stronger, resilient and equipped to deal with our challenges.
Innovation has been at the heart of Arizona’s water success story, but so have frustration, fighting and lawyers.
There’s a reason why so many old westerns had water as a pivotal piece in the plot. Water has value and it’s worth fighting for.
Somehow, over all the years of our history --- and despite all the disagreements regarding water --- we found solutions, and we created a number of important policies and institutions that made our water supplies more certain.
From our earliest diversions and canal systems in the mid-1800s, to the Salt River Project and Yuma area irrigations projectsin the early 1900s, the Colorado River Compact in the ‘20s, the Central Arizona Project and the Groundwater Management Act in the ‘80s, one thing’s clear: we’ve been proactive in our water management since before statehood.
And because of it, we have been prepared for the drought we currently face.
In the period from 1957 to 2013, Arizona – as a whole – reduced its water consumption by 100,000 acre feet.
I want to reiterate that. We use less water today than we did in 1957.
Not only do we use less, we have saved and stored water in a big way. Thanks to careful planning, there is approximately 9 million acre feet of water stored in Arizona.
That’s pretty remarkable when you think about the fact that --- since 1957 --- our population has increased six-fold while our gross domestic income has increased nineteen-fold.
Without a doubt, Arizona is a national leader – if not THE nation’s leader – in proactive water conservation and management.
In fact, as an outgrowth of our Groundwater Management Act, more than 95 percent of treated wastewater generated in central Arizona serves beneficial uses, from agriculture, to groundwater recharge, to power generation, industrial uses and more.
I’m proud of these accomplishments. They demonstrate that Arizonans are committed to the economic and practical realities of dealing with scarce resources.
They demonstrate that entrepreneurism, engineering, science, math, research, diplomacy, and resourcefulness have been a part of the Arizona water landscape for as long as we have been a state.
And there’s no reason we should stop now.
These accomplishments also prove that a comprehensive water management structure takes time --- and that we, as a state --- never want to be in the position of ‘reacting’ to water issues.
Instead, we should always be proactively finding solutions and fighting for future certainty in our water supplies. Just like our predecessors.
When it comes to this issue, we must never succumb to the idea that we are “good for the moment” – because as history has taught us, “the moment will pass.”
Despite Arizona’s successes, uncertainty and vulnerability surrounding our water supply remain.
Managing that uncertainty and limiting that vulnerability is part of Arizona’s history, and continues to be a strategic goal for my administration and our state.
Several of the challenges we face in the west were addressed last week in the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Arizona’s positions were laid out very well by the Arizona Department of Water Resource Director Tom Buschatzke.
We have made it very clear that Arizona has a role to play in the western water discussion.
And we’ve have laid out a solid position for the future:
First – The continued decline of Lake Mead, even in years with normal precipitation and runoff, is a great concern and needs to be addressed.
Second – The potential for deeper, more draconian shortages of Colorado River water to the State of Arizona must be limited.
Third – There needs to be federal support for conservation programs that will benefit the entire Colorado River system, rather than any one user.
That’s especially true given how much some users – like Arizona – have already done voluntarily to maintain the levels of the system.
Fourth – There should be no fallout from the water crisis in California that may limit or impact Arizona through actions by the Secretary of the Interior.
Fifth – Finding ways to augment the Colorado River, and other supplies of water in Arizona, is key to our future growth.
Sixth – The increased risk of catastrophic wildfires in our national forests due to poor forest management is a risk to our communities and our water supplies. Implementation of landscape forest restoration is a key factor in fixing the problem.
I’m grateful Senators McCain and Flake have reached out to me -- and to the Arizona Department of Water Resources -- as we look for solutions at the federal level.
My administration is committed to working with them – as well as local water users, organizations and entities – to protect Arizona’s interests in the months and years to come. And I look forward to what we can accomplish.
With that said, we must be vigilant as we deal with the federal government to address these issues.
Many of the most critical day-to-day decisions affecting our water supplies are being made in Washington D.C. So we must impress upon them what Arizona has already put on the table, and ensure that their decisions empower us to control our own destiny.
I see the potential for a productive and effective partnership with the federal government – so long as their actions to aid California do not reduce Arizona’s flexibility or ability to manage our water.
Arizona already takes the lion’s share of Colorado River shortages. Federal actions that might further impact Arizona are not warranted and would not be equitable.
As I close here today, I want to reiterate my optimism for Arizona’s water future.
Despite the uncertainties, vulnerabilities and challenges we face, Arizona does not face an immediate crisis.
And we won’t, as long as we follow the examples of those before us: good planning, good management and good policy.
This is not just an Arizona issue, but we’ve been national leaders in addressing it.
And we’re not stopping or slowing down. I want to keep this momentum going.
We’re going to meet with stakeholders around the state to continue exploring solutions and we’re going to work directly with the Congressional delegation to promote and protect Arizona’s best interests.
On my end, I will work with our state legislators to ensure our agencies – starting with DWR – are properly resourced to accomplish the important work we’re asking them to do.
That’s my commitment. And today, I’m calling on your help and support as we continue to move Arizona in the right direction.
We all have a role to play in shaping Arizona’s future. Let’s ensure that future is prosperous.
Let’s set an example that would make our predecessors proud, and that our next generation of leaders will want to follow.
Let’s get it done right and let’s get it done together.