Governor Hobbs Announces Actions to Modernize Arizona’s Groundwater Management
Move Comes Moments After Releasing Drastic Forecast On Phoenix’s Water Supply
PHOENIX — Governor Katie Hobbs took a step in fulfilling her promise of transparency in her administration, unsealing an until-now unreleased report that Phoenix’s West Valley is short of its 100-year supply of water required by law. She followed the drastic announcement with an Executive Order to modernize Arizona’s groundwater management.
“I do not understand, and do not in any way agree with, my predecessor choosing to keep this report from the public and from members of this legislature. However, my decision to release this report signals how I plan to tackle our water issues openly and directly,” Governor Hobbs said in her State of the State Address.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources reported the Lower Hassayampa sub-basin that encompasses the far West Valley of Phoenix is projected to have a total unmet demand of 4.4 million acre-feet over a 100-year period. The bottom line: the Arizona Department of Water Resources cannot approve the development of subdivisions reliant on groundwater.
“We must talk about the challenge of our time: Arizona’s decades-long drought, over usage of the Colorado River, and the combined ramifications on our water supply, our forests, and our communities,” Governor Hobbs said.
The Governor outlined short- and long-term solutions in her address.
First, a new office dedicated to water, energy and land use solutions: the Governor’s Office of Resiliency. It will coordinate stakeholders among state agencies, tribal governments, universities, organizations and others to address Arizona’s water challenges from a local, state, regional and national level.
The Governor issued an Executive Order to establish the Governor’s Water Policy Council, tasked with modernizing the Arizona Groundwater Management Act – the state’s playbook for protecting its groundwater. The group will update groundwater management tools and protect groundwater – which serves as 41 percent of the state’s water supply.
The critical need for these updates: closing groundwater poaching loopholes.
There are effectively no restrictions on groundwater pumping and lack of support for smaller communities.
“This is why you see a Saudi Arabian conglomerate pumping local groundwater nearly unchecked in La Paz County today, to grow water-intensive crops and send them to the other side of the planet,” the governor said.
Governor Hobbs previewed her executive budget proposal which intends to allocate funds to help rural communities strike a balance between usage and recharging aquifers through Active Management Areas.
In her State of the State Address, the governor urged to follow in the footsteps of Arizona’s leaders who have reached across the aisle for decades to find pragmatic solutions for “a drought unlike anything in modern times.”
Additional cuts to Colorado River water went into effect at the start of the year. Arizona must slash 21 percent of its water use from the river that provides water to seven states. That’s 592,000-acre-feet a year, or the water usage of more than 2 million Arizona households a year.
“This should be a wake-up call for all of us, because it will take all of us to solve it,” Governor Hobbs said, calling on legislators, public officials and the business community to commit to the partnerships needed to make a difference.
The full text of the governor’s Executive Order is as follows:
WHEREAS, forty-three (43) years ago, Governor Bruce Babbitt convened the Arizona Groundwater Management Commission in a time of great uncertainty and adversity to ensure that Arizona remained a welcoming home for everyone for generations to come by protecting against overuse of the State’s finite groundwater; and
WHEREAS, this effort brought leaders of both parties and stakeholders across the State together to pass the 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management Act (the “GMA”); and
WHEREAS, the GMA was both a symbol of bipartisan collaboration and a monumental innovation in sustainable groundwater management that was recognized throughout the Country as well as internationally; and
WHEREAS, since the GMA’s initial passage, the population of the State of Arizona has grown more than one hundred seventy percent (170%); and
WHEREAS, the State has experienced moderate or severe drought conditions almost continuously for more than twenty (20) years; and
WHEREAS, these historic drought conditions and the related effects of climate change have diminished the availability of surface water, which diminution has in turn increased demand for groundwater pumping; and
WHEREAS, the GMA contemplated that the most populous areas of the State would achieve “safe-yield” by 2025, meaning that withdrawals from and recharge to the aquifers in such areas would be in long-term balance; and
WHEREAS, due to the confluence of factors described above and incomplete water stewardship by the broader community, the achievement of safe-yield by 2025 is now highly improbable; and
WHEREAS, the goals of the GMA cannot be achieved without updates to current law developed through bipartisan, State-wide collaboration; and
WHEREAS, the State is home to many civic, scientific and business leaders who, collectively, possess the skills, knowledge and resolve required to achieve the long-term sustainability of Arizona’s groundwater, a resource that is enjoyed by and necessary to all Arizonans.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Katie Hobbs, Governor of the State of Arizona, by virtue of the power vested in me by the Arizona Constitution and the laws of this State, hereby order and direct as follows:
The Governor’s Water Policy Council (the “Council”) is created to analyze and recommend updates, revisions and additions to the GMA and related water legislation, which shall include, without limitation, analysis and recommendations for groundwater management outside current Active Management Areas.
The Council shall also build upon the work of the Governor’s Water Augmentation, Innovation, and Conservation Council (the “GWAIC”), which GWAIC is hereby dissolved.
The Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources shall serve as the Chair of the Council.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources shall provide staffing and technical support to the Council, which may include support from the Department’s legal counsel.
The Chair shall create committees, as necessary, to facilitate the Council’s work and the Chair shall appoint the chair and vice chair for any committee so created.
The Council shall meet at such frequency as the Governor or the Chair may direct.
The Chair may establish sub-committees, which sub-committees may include non-Council members.
The Council shall be composed of the following members, each of whom shall be appointed by the Governor and serve, without compensation, at the pleasure of the Governor.
Membership shall include the Directors of the following governmental entities:
Arizona Department of Water Resources
Arizona Department of Agriculture
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management
Arizona State Land Department
Arizona Commerce Authority
Membership shall include additional representatives to be chosen by the Governor including, without limitation, from the following:
Salt River Project
Central Arizona Project
Local government leaders
Arizona Municipal Water Users Association
Kyl Center for Water Policy, Arizona State University
University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center
College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences, Northern Arizona University
Two (2) Tribal communities within current Active Management Areas (as recommended by the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona)
One (1) Tribal community outside current Active Management Areas (as recommended by the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona)
Sustainable agriculture/ranching industry
Non-governmental conservation organizations
Private water companies
The Council shall prepare legislative and policy recommendations at a frequency to be determined by the Chair in consultation with the Governor or her designee.
Executive Order 2019-02 is hereby superseded and rescinded by this Order.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Arizona
DONE at the Capitol in Phoenix on this ninth day of January in the Year Two Thousand Twenty-Three and of the independence of the United States of America the Two Hundred and Forty-Seventh.
SECRETARY OF STATE