PHOENIX—Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs emphasized the significance of addressing water-related issues in her second State of the State address. Hobbs declared water a bipartisan concern, particularly in light of drought conditions resulting from climate change and overconsumption. She highlighted the need for updated groundwater laws in Arizona, which experts and residents have been advocating for over the years. Currently, 80 percent of the state lacks regulations over groundwater, enabling unlimited pumping by agricultural operations and causing some communities’ wells to run dry.
Hobbs expressed her determination to address these issues by stating, “We cannot continue to let individuals and corporations exploit these loopholes and rob us of our water future.” However, finding bipartisan solutions may prove challenging.
Last year, Hobbs announced policy recommendations from her Water Policy Council, which received support from rural Arizona leaders, water policy experts, and environmentalists. Nevertheless, prominent Republicans in the state legislature and powerful lobbying organizations, such as the Arizona Farms Bureau Association, have voiced opposition.
Despite potential pushback, Hobbs conveyed her commitment to taking action, whether or not she receives support. The urgency of the water crisis was highlighted when a community near Scottsdale suffered months without a reliable water source due to a loophole in the law. Additionally, growth in the Phoenix metro area can no longer depend on groundwater as it has been tapped out, prompting cities to seek new water supplies.
Haley Paul, Arizona policy director for the National Audubon Society and a member of the governor’s water council, emphasized the widespread recognition that action must be taken. However, determining the specific solution remains a subject of debate.
Groundwater regulations are crucial to ensure communities can adapt to reduced water availability from the Colorado River, which has experienced a 20 percent decline in flow over the past two decades. Arizona, along with its neighboring states Nevada and California, has voluntarily reduced water usage to secure federal funding. Negotiations are also underway to establish new guidelines for the entire system that will take effect in 2027.
Hobbs aims to modernize groundwater regulations while paving the way for sustainable growth, asserting that Arizona’s water standards are vital to its strong economy. She stressed the importance of not sacrificing these standards for unchecked growth and is seeking to enable sustainable development.
In her address, Hobbs directed the state water department to develop a new pathway for water providers and communities, allowing them to utilize groundwater as they work toward alternative water sources.
Addressing the water crisis requires bipartisan cooperation, with some recommendations garnering widespread support while others prove more divisive. Ultimately, updating groundwater laws is essential for Arizona to navigate the diminishing Colorado River and its declining water supplies.
No direct quotes from the original article were used in the modified version.