Phoenix/ Politics & Govt
AI Assisted Icon
Published on June 21, 2024
Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs Faces Calls for Special Session on Groundwater Reform Amid Water Scarcity ConcernsSource: Wikipedia/Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As Arizona grapples with its enduring water scarcity, Governor Katie Hobbs faces growing demands to convene a special session focused on groundwater reform. Despite a Legislature adjournment, the possibility for targeted legislation remains on the table.

Discussions within the governor's water policy council have crystallized around two proposals, one aimed at safeguarding rural groundwater and the other at curbing urban water use. Patrick Adams, Hobbs’ water policy advisor, has signaled the governor's willingness to push forward under the right consensus, stating, “If consensus can be reached on a rural groundwater policy solution, I am here today to tell you that Gov. Hobbs will consider calling a special session to enact this critical legislation,” according to AZPM.

The proposed rural plan seeks to establish protections for critically low basins and enforce pumping restrictions, incorporating local input. The urgency of the matter was underscored by councilmember and farmer Ed Curry who said, "The main thing is that we do not want to reward the abuser of water. If we send that signal that we reward the abuser it will continue to be abused."

Nevertheless, not all voices feel heard in the development of these water strategies. Representative Stacey Travers (D-Phoenix) expressed concerns about the inclusivity of the stakeholder meetings, telling AZPM, “Quite honestly, I think it’s kind of bullsh-t." The urban water use initiative includes an incentive program to transition agricultural lands for urban utility, a move backed by the Department of Water Resources for its potential to reduce water use significantly.

Concerns about the ag-to-urban program's efficacy prompted Governor Hobbs to veto SB 1172, a bill that would facilitate this transition. While supporting the concept, Hobbs emphasized the importance of watertight legislation.“However, it is critical that the legislation be carefully crafted to ensure that the water conservation savings and consumer protections are guaranteed. It is clear that the unique data among Arizona’s Active Management Areas (AMAs) does not support universal adoption of this program across all four of the state’s initial AMA’s.” Hobbs stated in her veto letter. Sarah Porter, from the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the need for stringent language to prevent loopholes and unintended consequences of groundwater pumping.

The dual challenge of water management and housing supply has placed Arizona at a crossroads, with potential pathways being hotly debated among policymakers and stakeholders. With pressures intensifying on all fronts, the governor's decision on whether to proceed with a special legislative session is poised to have significant ramifications for the state's future.