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- Arizona's top water leader Sandy Fabritz-Whitney says the state is in a relatively good water position overall, but two studies point to water shortages for Arizona in the future.
Funding, creativity can minimize the water shortage.
Unless the West is blessed with annual good rainfall and snow for years to come, the bottom line is Arizona must weather a water shortage. Fabritz-Whitney believes Arizona can help offset the deficiency through a broad portfolio of short-term strategies. Many options should be localized solutions versus a statewide “one-size-fits-all” approach.
One local short-term strategy is the reuse of reclaimed (effluent) water especially in the urban areas, an idea which Fabritz-Whitney supports. Many parts of the world with water shortages now reuse water for human use.
“If we look at a 1 million acre foot water imbalance in Arizona, we have the potential to reduce the imbalance by almost half through reclaimed water use since the majority of the population growth is in Central Arizona,” Fabritz-Whitney said.
Other options include locating sustainable water supplies, improved watershed management, and weather modification.
“Weather modification may sound crazy but it works in some parts of the country,” Fabritz-Whitney said. “We need to examine how weather modification could increase (water) yields out of our watersheds in a safe and effective manner.”
Long-term strategies include partnering with California and Mexico on ocean desalinization, including building a stronger relationship with Mexico on water issues.
“Mexico is Arizona’s most important trading partner,” Fabritz-Whitney said. “We can partner with Mexico, help them solve some of their water problems, and meet our needs which will go a long way to improve Arizona’s future.”
Funding to implement water changes is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The Director says funding is integral to solve long-term water issues. Water groups should allow business, community, and government leaders to decide funding on water issues.
Fabritz-Whitney said, “It’s time to elevate the funding conversation to local, business, and legislative leaders.”
Lastly, the state’s water leader raised the sensitive issue of future water transfers as a possible solution. She says comprehensive conversations on transfers should occur. Transfers are legal under federal law but must be approved by ADWR.
“There are Yuma (area) farmers who want to transfer their water rights but it’s not prevalent across the entire Yuma basin,” Fabritz-Whitney said.
Part of the water transfer conversation should focus on the impact that water transfers could have on local economies.
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