Key players in Arizona’s water supply gathered today at the GPEC Ambassador Event to discuss the future of water in greater Phoenix at Renaissance Square in Downtown Phoenix.
The event featured a panel consisted of David Modeer, general manager at Central Arizona Project, Grady Gammage Jr., an Attorney at Gammage & Burnham, Dave Roberts, the Senior Diretor of Water Resources at Salt River Project, and Michael Lacey, the director at Arizona Department of Water Resources.
The panel attempted to address various concerns facing Arizona’s water supply that have come to fruition as a result of what has been a 14-year drought extending from Texas to California.
“The efforts that the people on this panel and others have been making over the last 5-10 years in response to the drought, and going forward, are without question one of the most important efforts made to sustain the economy and quality of life of this state,” Modeer said.
The importance of the efforts to sustain Arizona’s water supply was highlighted in a study by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
According to the study, “Central Arizona Project’s delivery of Colorado River water from 1986 through 2010 has generated in excess of $1 trillion of Arizona’s gross state product.”
Between 2005 and 2010 alone, it is pointed out in the study, CAP’s contribution to gross state product increased 27.7 percent to 49.5 percent.
“The significance of what’s at stake for Arizona is unparalleled,” Modeer said. “Without water, we don’t have a viable state of Arizona.”
While plans for the future and actions that have already been taken were discussed with optimism, Lacey acknowledged that there are no definitive answers.
“I have people come up to me all the time and say, ‘so do we have enough water?’” he said. “And, that is exactly like if I come up to one of you and say, ‘do you have enough money?’”
The answer to both of those questions, he said, is: “it depends.”
“The real questions are ‘what do we do with the water we have and what are our chances of getting more?” he said.
In addressing these questions, Lacey said that the public needs to overcome several misconceptions.
One of these misconceptions, he said, stems from the fact that Arizona is the junior right holder on the Colorado River.
“Unfortunately, I think the public’s perception is, if there’s a declaration of shortage on the river, then Phoenix is dry,” he said. “That’s not true. While we are the junior right holder, it is highly unlikely that there will be nothing in the canal.”
Also, he said, even if there is a shortage, it will be mostly agriculture that is affected, not municipal use.
“A declaration of water is not going to mean there isn’t water coming out of your tap,” he said.
While it was acknowledged that there is no sure answer in addressing the issues, the discussion served as an opportunity to find consensual agreements between important Arizona figures.
“The issue that we in the system are dealing with is ‘how do you get an agreement among a really diverse group of states and water rights holders within those states to do something now?’” Modeer said.