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Representative Tom O’Halleran and representatives of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) and the Northwest Arizona Watershed Council joined together today to urge swift adoption of water legislation that recently passed the House and is now before the Senate. Arizona PIRG also released a new policy paper, "Our Water, Our Future: Policy Options to Safeguard Water Resources in Arizona." The policy paper documents the main threats to Arizona’s water supply and details policy recommendations to ensure enough water for our future.
According to Represenative O’Halleran and water advocates, water legislation has made unprecedented gains in the legislature this year that represent steps in the direction to protecting Arizona’s water and its future.
Representative O’Halleran stated, “Arizona is in the ninth year of drought and rural Arizona still does not have the management policies to deal with ever increasing development. Last year we adopted a statewide conservation, drought and water plan requirement for water providers. This was the first in the history of Arizona. We cannot wait any longer to develop water management policy.”
Lela Prashad, advocate for Arizona PIRG, explained, “Currently, our water supply is threatened by uncontrolled use that is occurring with no accountability or oversight. Urban supplies are already feeling the effects of unregulated development drawing water from its fringes and from rivers that feed the cities. All Arizonans should have a local, clean water supply. All Arizonans should have the right to know about the available water resources of their homes or businesses before they buy so that they can make informed decisions.”
According to a new policy paper released today by Arizona PIRG the path toward crisis is not inevitable. Rather, it is the product of unwise patterns and policies regarding water use in our state including: 1) lack of conservation; 2) over-pumping and excessive river water withdrawal; 3) the threats of inter-basin and unsustainable intra-basin transfers of water to our environment and economy; 4) inefficient water use in industry, agriculture, and development; and 5) pollution.
Arizona PIRG recommends the following policy solutions to ensure Arizona will have enough water to prosper, now and in the future:
Conserve Our Water Resources
In order to conserve our water, we must not consume more water than our renewable supply. We can accomplish this by focusing growth where there is a sustainable, long-term amount of water and by monitoring and planning for our current and future use.
Preserve Our Rivers
We must keep enough water in our rivers and streams to support recreation and wildlife - integral parts of Arizona’s natural heritage and quality of life. In order to preserve and protect our rivers for generations to come, we must control the amount of water removed from rivers and not draw water beyond what the river needs to remain healthy.
Maintain a Local Supply of Water
We must use local groundwater supplies in a sustainable manner to protect the environment and local economies. When groundwater is transferred from one part of the state to another, that water is no longer available to the communities and ecosystems where it originated. For that reason, Arizona should maintain the bar on inter-basin transfers codified in the 1991 Groundwater Transportation Act. For local, intra-basin transfers, we need policies that encourage efficiency and temporary leasing, while preventing harm to ecosystems and communities.
Use Our Water Efficiently
We must ensure all sectors of our economy use water wisely, not wastefully, to obtain the most value from this precious resource. In order to accomplish this, statewide water efficiency standards should be set for urban, agriculture, and energy sources.
Maintain Water Quality
Pollution is exacerbating our water quantity problems by rendering countless gallons unsafe for use. We must reduce and prevent water pollution as a key strategy for addressing the scarcity of this resource. Wastewater treatment plants should increase our usable water supply and salinity output should be minimized.
Earl Engelhardt, representative from the Northwest Arizona Watershed Council based in Mohave County said, “Our elected decision makers have to act now to ensure our water needs can stand up to Arizona’s current and future growth by demanding that our water supply, be one of “water in perpetuity,” protecting future generations.”
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