LPM Staff

Budget cuts impinge on jobs, water supply

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In normal conditions, a human can only last a few days without water and in extreme conditions, just a few hours. Water is essential to life, right? So one would think the Arizona Department of Water Resources (DWR) would be of utmost priority.

DWR is responsible for securing Arizona’s water future, among other duties, and had a budget of more than $22.3 million in 2008. DWR’s present fiscal year budget is $5.7 million. In four years, from 2008 to 2012, General Fund appropriation for DWR has dropped 74 percent. 

Regional offices have closed to consolidate services in Phoenix, and 141 less people have full-time jobs in Arizona. Not only is this adding to the unemployment rate, “there has been a loss in the frontline knowledge,” says Sharon Megdal, director of the Water Resources Research Center and professor at the University of Arizona. It’s a loss of expert guidance for the communities and agencies dealing with regional water issues, not to mention the state, according to experts. 

According to “Impact: Sustaining Arizona’s Water Future” a Budget Trax report written by Morrison Institute senior policy analyst C.J. Eisenbarth Hager, severe budget cuts to the Arizona Department of Water Resources (DWR) could hinder years of progress in water policy and eventually threaten the state’s water supply and sustainability goals. 

It’s lack of foresight on the part of those crunching the budget numbers. Steve Olson, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, says “DWR’s programs feature very long-term objectives and activities that are difficult to quantify,” which essentially puts them at the front of the line for the budget chopping block.

“Arizona is last in line for Colorado River water during times of water shortages,” says Olson. “Those days are upon us and we are collapsing the agency that powers the science to negotiate with neighboring states for water and to make good decisions with the water we do have.” The state gets 34.5 percent of its water from the Colorado River.

The Budget Trax report also lists possible solutions, including diversifying funding for DWR and taking a more comprehensive approach to water management and planning.

Morrison Institute for Public Policy is part of the ASU College of Public Programs in the School of Public Affairs in downtown Phoenix. Established in 1982, the institute is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and public outreach to help improve the state’s quality of life. The report can be read at morrisoninstitute.asu.edu.

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