Last week (June 1, 2023,) the Governor and her team, at a scheduled press event, released the Phoenix Active Management Area (AMA) Groundwater Model and the Arizona Department of Water Resources’ latest study of groundwater conditions across the Phoenix metropolitan area.
While the report’s title refers to Phoenix, the data concerns the whole of Arizona.
According to the report, many Arizona cities and towns have an assured 100-year groundwater supply. That includes:
- Casa Grande
Curiously, Flagstaff which receives greater rain and snowfall than the majority of the cities and towns on the assured list was only rated to have an adequate supply.
Please click here to see the names of the towns and cities that have an assured and adequate 100-year groundwater supply.
According to the Governor’s press release, the study shows that after 100 years, “four percent of the groundwater demand will not be met without further action.”
The cities and towns that do not have an assured or adequate groundwater level, like Buckeye and Queen Creek (where large-scale growth and development are occurring) will have to use other water sources to make the difference in supply. A pause in housing development projects has already been declared.
In addition to the release of the study, the Governor announced that $40 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan will be devoted to:
“…spur increased water conservation, fund critical water infrastructure, and promote sustainable groundwater management throughout the State.”
The amount of the grants and the cities and towns that will be awarded the funding have not been determined yet.
In a press release after the event, the Governor stated:
“Families and businesses from around the world come to Arizona in part because they know we are serious about water management, and that we are the leader in safeguarding groundwater supplies. What the model ultimately shows is that our water future is secure: the Assured Water Supply Program is working. Water supplies for homeowners and businesses are protected. Growth has been planned for, and will continue. My message to Arizonans is this: we are not out of water and we will not be running out of water because, as we have done so many times before, we will tackle the water challenges we face with integrity and transparency. I will not bury my head in the sand, cut corners, or put short-term interests over the State’s long-term economic growth. This proven approach is how we built a thriving Arizona, and I know it’s how we will continue to prosper long into the future.”
A little confusion with regard to Phoenix’s water supply.
With the title of the report mentioning Phoenix specifically and the conclusion that some metro Maricopa County areas will have to rely on other water sources in the 100-year period, some confusion amongst several (including this writer) caused City Officials, including Mayor Kate Gallego to respond to the release of the report, reassuring local residents that the fifth largest city, thanks in part to efforts the Mayor and City Council has taken on improving water security, had an assured groundwater supply level for the next century.
In a press release by the City of Phoenix, the Mayor said:
“Ensuring our continued water security is a top priority, and I have the utmost confidence in the City of Phoenix’s water resources planning and resilience. For the last several decades we have stored more groundwater than we have used, and we will continue to invest in diversifying our resources, bolstering infrastructure, and enhancing conservation practices. We’re not only looking out for ourselves—Phoenix will continue to lead the region in securing our water supplies for the future, including in driving the development of a regional Advanced Water Purification system that will supply up to 60 million gallons of water per day by the end of the decade.”
Cynthia Campbell, Phoenix Water Resources Management Advisor, added, “The City of Phoenix has diligently pursued a comprehensive water management strategy, which includes reducing dependence on groundwater. Through proactive measures such as advanced water purification systems, infrastructure expansion, and strong conservation programs, we will continue to be resilient in the face of challenges.”
Later the Mayor posted:
Rest assured: the @CityofPhoenixAZ is prepared. For several decades, we have stored more groundwater than we have used, and we will continue to diversify our resources, bolster water infrastructure, and enhance conservation practices — all while still serving the region. https://t.co/fTIP3lk0eA
— Mayor Kate Gallego (@MayorGallego) June 2, 2023
Reaction from Legislators and Governor’s Water Policy Council Members Priya Sundareshan and Stacey Travers.
Legislative District 18 State Senator Priya Sundareshan and LD 12 State Representative Stacey Travers, both members of the Governor’s Policy Council, issued a joint statement on June 2, 2023.
Senator Sundareshan stated:
“Although there’s a desire to reassure everyone that we have enough water for existing uses and planned growth, we must accept that our groundwater laws need changes in order to make them even stronger and close the gaps that remained from the 1980 GMA. The new model shows 4.9 million acre-feet (MAF) of unmet demand over 100 years in the Phoenix Active Management Area (AMA). Now is the time to prioritize our most efficient uses of water and retire inefficient uses to bring the AMA into balance. Realistically, this model does not yet account for reduced inflows from the Colorado River, which we know will be reduced in some significant way soon. As members of the Governor’s Water Policy Council, and in particular, of the Assured Water Supply Committee, we will propose and evaluate ideas that will further strengthen our groundwater laws. We deserve secure and sustainable groundwater everywhere in Arizona.”
Representative Travers offered:
“We appreciate the Governor’s forthright and transparent response to this long-term shortfall. Here is the bottom line: Because of excessive groundwater pumping and sustained drought caused by climate change, the demand for groundwater is expected to exceed supply, which will present a formidable challenge for continued growth in certain areas on the outskirts of the Phoenix metro area. It is imperative that we continue this administration’s vigilance to ensure Arizona’s continued growth and prosperity in a thoughtful and responsible manner. Bringing focus to the issue now, releasing the facts, and being honest with the state before it becomes an acute and harder-to-solve crisis, are all the motivation policymakers and stakeholders should need to work together on solutions to ensure that Arizonans in all corners of the state can have peace of mind that our water future is secure.”