Briefing Congress on drought preparedness

ADWR director testifies on Capitol Hill on Arizona's readiness for extended drought
August 3, 2017

Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke told a U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday that his state’s philosophy on preparing for long-term drought is focused on developing and improving the tools necessary to combat the effects of lengthy dry spells.

“Flexibility to manage water supplies and adaptation to drought conditions are part of Arizona’s history and will continue to be a key management strategy now and in the future,” said Buschatzke, who had been called to testify before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water and Power.

Arizona, he told the panel chaired by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, has fared better than many other drought-stricken states because of its commitment to broad-based drought planning.

In his written testimony -- submitted prior to Wednesday morning’s hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. – Buschatzke detailed many of the tools in Arizona’s drought-preparation “toolkit,” including long-term water storage credits, which encourage water users to store water in underground aquifers.

“Protections are in place to ensure that the addition of water to the aquifer through this program does not harm the aquifer’s water quality,” he said.

“Protections also ensure that existing structures extending below land surface are not damaged by rising water levels.”

The subcommittee sought out several national experts in long-term drought issues for the hearing, which was called to examine various means of increasing water security and drought preparedness through infrastructure, management plans and innovation.

Subcommittee Chairman Flake noted the importance of learning the latest about hydrology and drought-mitigation techniques from the people implementing them:

“Often-times, discussions at the federal level are dictated by costs,” said Flake, who emphasized the importance of infrastructure and technology in combating drought.

“We live in an age that you expect when you turn on the tap that there is water there. That water will always be there. Which means supply certainty is critical for managers.”

Also testifying in addition to the ADWR director were Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO of GE Power’s Water & Process Technologies; Carlos Riva, president of Poseidon Water, LLC; Martha Sheils, director of the New England Environmental Finance Center at the University of Southern Maine; and, Shirlee Zane, chairwoman of the board of the Sonoma County (Calif) Water Agency.

In his direct testimony before the panel, Director Buschatzke described the on-going effort to protect Lake Mead from the effects of drought and over-allocation.

Describing the “Drought Contingency Plan” that has been negotiated among the Lower Basin states of the Colorado River system, Buschatzke noted the collaborative nature of the effort, including California’s willingness to take a shortfall in its water deliveries, which is unprecedented.

“As demonstrated by the groundbreaking measures I have outlined, collaboration and an ‘all hands on deck’ approach is the future of the Colorado River.”

The director told the panel that Arizona’s efforts to foster stability of the Colorado River system “will be most successful in a setting where federal oversight is minimized, regulations and permitting processes are reduced or streamlined, and the primacy of states to manage water resources is honored.”



Arizona Lawmakers propose solutions for emergency drought | Cronkite News

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