Legislative Update: digging deep for water
By Cheryl L. Lombard, President and CEO of Valley Partnership
A balanced compromise has been found with Mayor Mark Mitchell and the Tempe City Council to remove street car from the city’s final development impact program. In the July/August Legislative Update, Valley Partnership mentioned our concern of street car being included in the final program. However, a big thank you to all who listened, learned and stepped up to help on this issue. Final passage of the program, without street car, by the Tempe City Council is anticipated at any time.
A new issue is on the horizon and one that is more complex than how to just pay for new infrastructure. It is how we deal with water supplies and water security in our cities and across the state.
The City of Phoenix took a first step last year with the creation of its Colorado River Water Resiliency Fund. It provides $5 million annually to fund projects focused on water supply resiliency, such as aquifer management, underground storage and water protection and restoration. The city created this fund by refinance of debt and without an increase of city water rates.
This summer, the City of Chandler passed an innovative policy about water to ensure the city grows and its water supply grows with it. What it will allow is high-volume water users that want to do business in the city will be required to purchase additional water on the open market to assure supply. In evaluating this, Chandler will take into account the benefit the business will bring to the city in terms of numbers of jobs and what they pay in approving the business and its water needs. This is a shift from the previous policy, whereby local government assured a company it would have the city water they need in exchange for appropriate rates assessed on the business.
Valley Partnership promotes responsible development and appreciates the fact that Chandler, or any city, is proactively looking at this issue, but we want to ensure all future development will have access to critical infrastructure and resources.
As this dialogue continues in these cities and expands to others, including as Buckeye and Peoria, as well as with Central Arizona Project and the State of Arizona, Valley Partnership will support efforts to lead the way to ensure water supplies are resilient, affordable and accessible.