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Water a Top Priority in State of the State Addresses

Three western governors—Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, California Governor Jerry Brown and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper—covered water issues as top priorities in their state of the state addresses last month. In each state, the governor noted the ongoing efforts to address their state’s water resource issues.

With tension between Arizona and California heating up as a Lower Basin shortage on the Colorado River becomes more probable, Gov. Ducey took a few jabs at California, ultimately saying that what is being called a Western Water Crisis is really a California Water Crisis. He then took the opportunity to congratulate the state on its previous planning efforts, especially the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, and noted what is being done to build on that foundation.

In late December, Ducey appointed 29 members from all stakeholder groups to a newly-created Water Augmentation Council. The council is charged with investigating new, long-term water supplies, exploring additional conservation opportunities, and identifying future infrastructure needs. He also authorized the Arizona Department of Water Resources to use existing funds to hire expert staff to implement the plans that the council develops.

Gov. Brown covered water within the final points before his closing comments. He celebrated the passage of Prop 1 and development of the California Water Action Plan, which together he characterized as “a solid program to deal with the drought and the longer-term challenge of using our water wisely.” While he reiterated the state’s dual goals of preserving natural beauty and ensuring vibrant agricultural and urban economies, he did not directly mention California WaterFix (previously known as the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan) or outline a specific plan. But the governor did issue a call to action, listing a number of actions that need to be taken to improve the state’s water supply situation, including:

  • * Recharging
  • * Managing groundwater
  • * Recycling
  • * Capturing stormwater
  • * Building storage and reliable conveyance infrastructure
  • * Improving efficiency, and
  • * Investing in new technology, such as desalination

In addition, the governor recognized that conflicting interests need to be balanced and promised to be instrumental in working through those conflicts.

“…I pledge to you that I will listen and work patiently to achieve results that will stand the test of time,” said Gov. Brown.

While Gov. Hickenlooper focused primarily on economic development, jobs and education, he gave a tip of a hat to the state government saying that it was an effective facilitator in developing the Colorado Water Plan. The plan involved engaging more than 30,000 people throughout the state and is “anchored in conservation and powered by innovative solutions to make [the state’s] water go further, protect our natural environment, and ensure our agriculture and recreation industries keep flourishing.”

Gov. Hickenlooper then turned his focus to implementation, noting that legislation is needed to provide the Colorado Water Conservation Board with the flexibility it needs to fund important water projects.

Regardless of whether they have specific programs in place, each governor called for specific actions. JOW will track how those calls to action unfold throughout the year.


Written by Marta L. Weismann