In January, Gov. Doug Ducey pledged that securing Arizona’s water future would be a priority during his last year in office, and on Wednesday he delivered a $1 billion investment toward projects that will bring additional water to the state on a long-term basis and change Arizona’s future.
Ducey signed Senate Bill 1740 during a ceremony attended by several lawmakers and stakeholders. The bill, which the governor’s office called “historic legislation,” will allow Arizona to make significant strides in water conservation and innovative technologies such as desalination. It will also provide state officials the opportunity to identify and develop new innovative long-term water sources.
“This legislation is crucial for our continued growth and prosperity,” Ducey said. “As we’ve done over the past seven and a half years, we came together, brought everyone to the table and delivered for the people of this great state. And by doing so, we are leaving Arizona better and stronger than we found it
SB1740 appropriates more than $1 billion over three years to the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) while expanding the agency’s responsibilities to provide loans and grants to water providers and entities. The funding is earmarked to support importation of water into Arizona, conservation, efficiency and reuses, and new technologies.
During the signing ceremony, Ducey recognized Sen. Sine Kerr (R- Buckeye) and Rep. Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) for chairing their respective chamber’s natural resources committee this session.
The governor also lauded Senate President Karen Fann, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, and minority leaders Rep. Reginald Bolding and Sen. Rebecca Rios for ensuring strong bipartisan support, as only two nay votes were cast against SB1740.
Fann noted that Arizona already had a strong commitment to obtaining water security, but acknowledged the state needed to step up its water conservation, efficiency, and reuse projects.
“Arizona’s economy is booming and in order to sustain that growth, we need to look ahead,” she said after the signing. “This water package does just that.”
Sine, who sponsored SB170, sees the signing of the bill as setting in motion a pathway toward reliable future water sources. “Today we celebrate our action to address the water issues our great state faces,” Kerr said. “All Arizonans now and in the future will benefit from this legislation.”
Water legislation has been a longtime priority for Griffin, who saw passage of SB170 as a collaborative effort among multiple stakeholders. “This critical legislation just makes sense. It’s fair and forward-looking,” Griffin said. “I’m glad we’ve come together to find a solution for our water future.”
One of those vital stakeholders was Arizona Farm Bureau.
“More than most, Arizona’s farmers and ranchers know the value of water,” said AFB President Stefanie Smallhouse. “This forward-thinking legislation will be counted among Arizona’s other great successes in water management, and the Arizona Farm Bureau is thankful to the Governor, leadership and staff in the House and Senate, and all those who came together to make this bipartisan bill a reality.”
Another key stakeholder who supported SB1740 was the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, which has been outspoken about the worsening conditions on the Colorado River which supplies water to much of Arizona.
“This is an important starting point to ensure continual planning and financing of water augmentation, reuse, and conservation,” said Warren Tenney, AMWUA’s executive directors. “Now, we must work together to maximize this historic investment in the wisest ways possible to benefit Arizona now and in the future.”
Several critical water infrastructure projects will move forward across Arizona, funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.
Nearly a dozen projects throughout the state will be funded as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 2022 Spend Plan. The $18.5 million in funding was signed into law last November by President Joe Biden, although the authority for the water infrastructure projects in Arizona tracks back to the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 signed by then-President Donald Trump.
The funds are intended for projects to help small, rural, and tribal communities across the state meet their water and wastewater infrastructure needs. Under the authority, federal funds cover 75 percent of a project’s total cost and go towards assisting with design and construction.
The first project to be funded under the authority is already under way—a critical water pipeline for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. The $578,000 pipeline project will boost water security for the community and support future growth in the area, according to supporters.
Other projects in Arizona to be funded under the Corps’ 2022 Spend Plan include:
$3.5 million for construction of a waterline in the city of Maricopa
$3 million for construction of a new wastewater treatment system for the Middle Verde District of the Yavapai-Apache Nation
$2.25 million to make wastewater treatment plant improvements in Buckeye
$2.25 million to install backup generators for Pima County’s water reclamation facility
$2.25 million to install reclaimed water pipeline and rehabilitate existing infiltration gallery at the Queen Creek Restoration Project in Superior
$1.5 million to construct the WF Killip Elementary School Regional Flood Detention basin in Flagstaff to mitigate post-fire flooding
$1.2 million to continue construction of Flagstaff Downtown Flood Lateral Tunnel to provide flood protection
$1.155 million to make improvements to the water filtration treatment plant in Kearny
$772,500 for water system improvements in Quartzite
A separate water infrastructure plan being funded through the Corps will provide $65.7 million to complete a flood control project for the Little Colorado River. The project consists of new and reconstructed levees which will protect the community of Winslow and other areas of Navajo County.
The current levee system is in danger of overtopping or failing in a 100-year flood event. This places nearly 1,600 structures—including almost all of the community’s critical public facilities such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and utilities—at risk.
On Tuesday, the city of Scottsdale asked residents to reduce water usage by five percent after the Bureau of Reclamation declared Arizona would have its Colorado River water claims reduced because of the river’s historic reclassification within Tier One drought status. As a result, Arizona had its 2.8 million acre-feet per year (AFY) claim on the river reduced by 512,000 AFY.
The city’s request may not be a suggestion for long: the announcement fell under Stage One of their Drought Management Plan (DMP), in which residents may voluntarily cut back on water usage. If city officials feel it necessary, then residents will be ushered into a California-esque Stage Two: mandatory water usage restrictions and water shortage surcharges.
Scottsdale Water Executive Director Brian Biesemeyer classified the city’s response as run-of-the-mill. Biesemeyer said Scottsdale residents needed to learn to live with less.
“Water conservation programs have been in place in Scottsdale for decades and many Scottsdale residents and businesses know their value,” said Biesemeyer. “Now we need to step up our game and take water conservation to the next level. With less water coming to us from the Colorado River in 2022, we need to learn to live with less and that starts every time we turn on the tap, flush the toilet or start our irrigation systems.”
Those who will feel the most immediate impact of the claim reduction will be farmers. Pinal County agriculture relies on the river water transported by the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal.
The Bureau of Reclamation elevated the Colorado River to Tier One drought status last August.
The city suggested residents adjust their irrigation timers, sign up for a water management portal called WaterSmart, remove grass from their properties, budget their water, and consult a free irrigation specialist to check outdoor water efficiency.
The folks at the Arizona Department of Transportation are reminding folks that if a car deal does not smell right, walk away.
“While the recent Hurricane Ida never came close to the Southwest, the storm can have an impact on Arizonans considering the purchase of a car,” says Doug Pacey of ADOT. “It’s not uncommon for vehicles damaged by flood waters to be shipped hundreds of miles away and placed on the market.”
And that, according to Pacey, is where a buyer’s nose can be of help, because water damage leaves a distinctive odor.
“Prospective buyers can protect themselves by closely inspecting a vehicle before purchasing it,” he explained. “Remember, a flood-damaged car might smell of mildew. If the car doesn’t pass a smell test, walk away.”
There are also other easy steps to take to ensure a vehicle you are interested in has not been submerged in water, what is often referred to as a “washed up” vehicle. One step is to inspect the vehicle’s nooks and crannies.
“Examine the trunk for dirt, silt and mold. Check under the dashboard and other hard-to-reach places as well,” says Pacey. “People trying to rip you off usually don’t clean all of those places.”
In addition, it is important to check all of the vehicle’s electrical and mechanical components.
“Water wreaks havoc on electrical systems, so take a thorough look to see if any of those systems aren’t working quite right,” Pacey recommends. “Also check the engine for signs of rust or even random new parts.”
The last thing to look at if the vehicle has passed the smell test and does not show any obvious signs of water damage in the engine or electrical system is to get under the vehicle.
Pacey said checking the suspension for signs of water damage is just as important. And if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, it’s something a reputable mechanic can help with.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration also warns anyone thinking of buying a hybrid or electric vehicle to ensure the battery has not been standing in water, as the batteries are highly corrosive.
If a salesperson discourages such an inspection, it is another reason to walk away from the deal.
For those who suspect they have unknowingly purchased a water damaged vehicle, whether new or use, information on possible options is available from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office at https://www.azag.gov/consumer/auto. Click on the tab for Problems With Your Transaction, as well as the tab for Arizona’s Lemon Law (if applicable).
Tucked here and there among the $12.8 billion budget package signed into law last week by Gov. Doug Ducey are numerous water-related funding opportunities for rural counties across Arizona.
Among the budget items in SB1823, the general appropriations bill, are allocations of $3 million for water project assistance grants to cities and towns that provide water in Navajo and Apache counties. Another $2 million of water project assistance grants are available to irrigation districts in Cochise and Graham counties.
Those funds are in addition to $160 million moved from the state’s general fund on June 30 to the Drought Mitigation Revolving Fund. Of that, up to $10 million may be used for grants which facilitate the forbearance of water deliveries by June 30, 2025, while another $10 million may be used for Arizona State Land Department grants related to water use.
Ducey also signed into law changes to Arizona’s tax code which allow water utilities regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) to deduct contributions toward construction from their Arizona gross annual income. This can be particularly beneficial for companies which serve smaller communities where it can be difficult to spread out the cost of construction projects.
In addition, the Legislature passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Gail Griffin (R-LD14) to provide $40 million for the Water Supply Development Fund for assistance to water providers for improvements to water infrastructure and projects located in rural communities.
The ACC is encouraging owners and operators of small water utility companies which are regulated by the Commission to take advantage of the funding, which can go as high as $1 million per project, to improve their water systems and benefit customers. There is also an option of a $100,000 grant which does not require repayment.
Eligible water utility companies must serve at least 15 customers or at least 25 people for at least 60 days of the year, be located outside of an active management area, and be within a county with a population of less than 1.5 million people. The funding can be used for myriad purposes, including acquiring water or water rights; purchasing or refinancing debt related to water supply development projects; conveying, storing, or recovering water; reclaiming or reusing water; capturing or controlling stormwater; and replenishing groundwater.
Utilities can apply for the WSD Fund loans or grants to the Arizona Water Finance Authority.
“I encourage every regulated water utility that qualifies for these funds to take advantage of them as expediently as possible for the benefit of their customers,” ACC chair Lea Marquez Peterson said last week.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-LD25) acknowledged the importance of the water funding allocations in a post-budget signing statement, calling the funding for infrastructure projects a “key to securing Arizona’s future, and one of our highest priorities.”