Lawmakers rewrite Ducey’s plan for $1 billion for new water | National government and new policies

PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to create a new state agency to boost the desert state’s increasingly strained water supply has turned into a plan to to empower an existing state entity to leverage and distribute a billion dollar new credit.

The entity is a shadowy agency called the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority, which will now be an autonomous agency under the supervision of a new board and others from the legislature.

The final plan was making its way through the House and Senate on Thursday as the Legislative Assembly prepares to enact its final pieces of legislation for the year.

The new agency has the support of a host of water users and entities who are increasingly concerned about the long-term drought that is jeopardizing Colorado River supplies. The state is already taking less water from the river to deliver it to Metro Phoenix, Pinal County and Tucson, and federal officials are warning of even bigger cuts soon.

Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, called the legislation “a critical next step in ensuring that Arizona continues the tradition of adapting our water management strategies to meet the challenges of supplies awaiting us”.

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Ducey called for major new water investment in his January state of the state address, implying that some of that money would be used to build a desalination plant in Mexico. While the money can be used for this purpose, it can also be used for conservation, groundwater development, or possibly importing water from other states.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers acknowledged that while the legislation provides a structure for dealing with water shortages, its details remain sparse.

“Nobody’s saying it’s perfect. We understand what we need to do,” Bowers told a House committee on Thursday. both small conservation projects and larger augmentation efforts.”

While Bowers and Ducey initially wanted the Department of Water Resources to oversee new funds and identify projects, Bowers said the senators wanted to separate the development of new sources from the ADWR’s regulatory role.

Democrats on the panel questioned whether the agency that helps fund local water and wastewater projects would be able to handle the expanded role.

Daniel Dialessi, executive director of WIFA, said his agency could easily play a bigger role in reviewing and funding projects to boost the state’s water supply,

“We have 30 years of history and problem-solving experience,” Dialessi said. “We go there and we come to the solution.”

In addition to a current Colorado River allocation reduction in Arizona that has impacted farmers and tribes, Buschatzke said last week that the US Bureau of Reclamation said two to four million additional acres of deliveries water will have to be cut off to the states because there is simply not enough water to deliver to the states along the river.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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