Departing Department vet illustrates ADWR’s role in Arizona water management

Departing Department vet illustrates ADWR’s role in Arizona water management
Published date
Thu, May 24 2018

The challenge facing the Arizona Department of Water Resources right now, said Department policy adviser and legislative liaison Doug Dunham, is to balance 17 years of on-going drought in the Southwest with healthy economic growth in Arizona.

“How do we balance that?” asked Dunham.

“We’re getting to a coin-toss on whether we’re going to have a (water-delivery shortfall prompted by low water levels at Lake Mead) or not. That’s very, very sobering for us.”

Dunham made those observations during one of the Department’s periodic “ADWR Water 101” seminars. The May 23 presentation, entitled “An Overview of Water Management in Arizona,” outlined the many and diverse areas of water management that make up the Department’s mission.

The well-attended seminar will be Dunham’s last for the Department. The 19-year ADWR veteran has accepted a position in the private sector. According to Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke, a decision on replacing Dunham as the Department’s liaison to the State Legislature has not yet been finalized.

A geomorphologist by training, Dunham at various stages in his ADWR career managed the Assured and Adequate Water Supply program, the Recharge and Recovery program, the Statewide Well program and the Surface Water program. He also supervised water rights and conservation within Arizona’s five Active Management Areas.

In addition to his current duties as a policy adviser to the Director and legislative liaison, Dunham also serves as the Department’s ombudsman.

In Wednesday’s presentation, Dunham outlined the Department’s diversity of duties as they relate to water management.

In addition to direct responsibility for managing the State’s Colorado River supplies, which constitute more than 40 percent of Arizona’s water supplies overall, ADWR provides a wide array of water-related management services.

They include programs that Dunham supervised over the course of his lengthy ADWR career such as administering both Groundwater Rights and Surface Water Rights, as well as Statewide Regional Planning.

In his presentation, Dunham also summarized the many other activities ADWR conducts such as conducting dam-safety and flood-mitigation supervision; representing the State of Arizona in Tribal Water Rights settlements; providing technical assistance to the General Stream Adjudication Court; and overseeing Arizona’s vast and complex hydrology. 

Monitoring groundwater levels and maintaining the Department’s enormous database on underground aquifers – one of the Department’s core functions – “helps inform everything we do,” said Dunham.

“Legislators are always amazed that we do these things,” said the legislative liaison.

“Knowing about declining water tables is something that is very important for the general public,” he said.

“The computer models are built by the hydrology division. That information also helps inform the general public.”