Buschatzke Tabbed Once Again As An Arizona “Leader Of The Year”

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ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke at the USBR press conference which announced the release of a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.  (Image Courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior. CC BY-SA 2.0)

ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke has been named by the Arizona Capitol Times as one of Arizona’s “Leaders of the Year” for 2023 in environmental policy.

It is the second year in a row that the ADWR Director has been tabbed by the news group for outstanding work at protecting Arizona’s water resources.

It has been a near epochal year in Arizona water policy, including substantial events impacting groundwater resources and taking a major step forward toward stabilizing the Colorado River system.

In May, Buschatzke joined with his Colorado River Lower Basin partners representing California and Nevada in announcing a proposal the states had submitted to the Secretary of the Interior, offering to conserve unprecedented volumes of water in the river system.

ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke joined Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs at their press conference on June 1 to give an update on Arizona's water future. (Image Courtesy of Fox 10 Phoenix)

As the State’s designated representative to Colorado River matters, Buschatzke negotiated on behalf of Arizona for a proposal to save three million acre-feet in Lake Mead and Lake Powell – an amount on top of the hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of Colorado River water Arizona already committed to leaving in Lake Mead.

The New York Times acknowledged that the proposal was “among the most aggressive ever experienced in the region.” CNN News followed suit, deeming the proposal “historic.”

Weeks later, the Department released the results of its modeling of the Phoenix Active Management Area groundwater basin, which found a 4 percent shortage in groundwater supplies over the next 100 years. 

On Thursday April 6, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs hosted the White House and Department of the Interior officials to announce plans for additional compensated conservation in the Colorado River System, as well as new funding for investments in infrastructure for Tribal communities.

At a press conference called by Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, Director Buschatzke observed that the Phoenix AMA model results and the subsequent actions announced by Governor Hobbs to protect future Arizona homeowners shows that the state’s Assured Water Supply program has effectively slowed depletion.

“It definitely shows that the groundwater supply program is working,” he said.

The decisive actions taken in June mirrored the events of June 28, 2021, when ADWR announced a groundwater shortage in the Pinal Active Management Area.

In a statement released that day, Director Buschatzke observed that “the days of utilizing native groundwater for development in Pinal are over. It’s done,” he said.

 Gov. Katie Hobbs discusses the proposal to cut Colorado River water usage at a May 25, 2023, press conference. (Image courtesy Arizona Governor’s Office)

The Capitol Times awards are not the first honorifics Buschatzke has received as ADWR Director.

In 2019, the Arizona Republic named Buschatzke “Co-Arizonan of the Year,” along with then-Central Arizona Project General Manager Ted Cooke. The award was largely in honor of the determined (and successful) efforts by the two water leaders to help guide the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan through, first, the Arizona Legislature, and then through Congress.

For those efforts, both Buschatzke and Cooke were honored with the “2019 Bipartisan Accomplishment of the Decade Award” from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, as well as an award for Environmental Excellence from Arizona Forward.

In addition to Buschatzke’s award in Environmental Policy, attorney Rita P. Maguire received an award for Public Service. Maguire represented ADWR in a successful U. S. Supreme Court case this year.