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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ducey's Water Council Represents Water Exploitation

Is the new Governor's Water Augmentation Council (GWAC)--which meets for the first time Friday, February 19--just a collection of Arizona water experts, or is it primarily a grouping of representatives for agribusiness, mining, and development?

A look at the chart below will reveal some interesting facts. For example, if you look at the list of members Ducey appointed to the council, you'll see one representative from the Salt River Project (SRP), and one representative (formerly the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources) from Freeport McMoran, the controversial Phoenix-based mining company. However, although being a member of a board that also contains a representative of a corporation does not mean any strong relationship exists, it is important to note the extent to which these two entities have influence. After all, they are the primary private entities with interests in what happens to Arizona water.

Over a third of GWAC is involved with the Kyl Center for Water Policy. This is important for a few reasons. You may notice that the only person on the chart who is not part of GWAC is Richard Morrison, yet he is included because his role is important.

Governor's Water Augmentation Council (GWAC)Kyl Center for Water PolicyWater Resources Research Center (WRRC)Executive Committee of Agriculture and Water CouncilWater Resource Development CommissionArizona-Mexico CommissionADWR Strategic VisionOther

SRP Representation
SRP Sponsorship


Mining Representation

Freeport McMoranFreeport McMoranFreeport McMoranFreeport McMoran

Mining Sponsorship

Freeport McMoran

Freeport McMoran

Bas Ajamember

AZ Cattlemen's Assoc
Cheryl Lombardmember


Valley Partnership
Chris Camachomember

Chris Udallmember
boardExecutive DirectorAdvisor

Craig Sullivanmember


County Boards of Supervisors
Dave Robertsmember
boardmemberalternateWater Committee"Significant Contributions"SRP
David Brownmemberboard


Glenn Hamermember

AZ Chamber of Commerce
Grady Gammage Jr.memberboard

Hunter Mooremember

Office of Gov Doug Ducey
Kathleen Ferrismemberboardboard

Lisa Atkinsmemberboard

Land Dept.
Mark Smithmember

Maureen Georgemember


Misael Cabreramember

Water Committee
Pat Grahammemberboardboard

Nature Consverancy
Phil Townsendmember

Sunlund Chemicals Co
Richard Morrison-funderexternal advisory boardmember

Salmon, Lewis, and Weldon- water law
Rick Lavismemberboard

authorAZ Cotton Growers Assoc
Robert Lottsmember

Rod Keelingmember

Arizona Wine Growers Association
Ron Dobamember


Sandy Fabritz-Whitneymemberboard

authorFreeport McMoran
Sarah Portermemberdirectorboard

Spencer Kampsmember


Home Builders Association of Central Arizona
Ted Cookemember

Thomas Buschatzkememberboardboard

Water Committeeauthor
Virginia O’Connellmember

Wade Noblememberboard

Warren Tenneymember


A $1 million seed endowment from the Morrison family launched the Kyl Center for Water Policy, part of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU in November 2014. Richard Morrison, a co-founder and the Chairman of the Morrison Institute Advisory Board, and a cattle-rancher who grew up on a cotton farm (see the impact of cotton on AZ water), is also credited with "[negotiating] settlement of four central Arizona Indian water rights settlements representing local irrigation districts."

The law firm Morrison works with, Salmon, Lewis & Weldon, has represented SRP in water rights claims for decades. There are still several tribal water rights claims that are unresolved. SRP, agribusiness, the mining industry, and developers want these claims resolved on their terms, in order to determine once and for all, who can use the ever-dwindling precious resource and how to plan for the future.

It may not be lost on the reader that the Kyl Center is named after John Kyl, who has been involved in attempts to resolve water rights claims in Arizona for many years. He retired from his position as Arizona State Senator in June 2013, but was speaking on the topic of water at the Morrison Institute shortly after.

Richard Morrison and John Kyl wrote an opinion column for the Arizona Republic entitled, "We have more rights than water to fill them" in May 2014.

Up to now, disputes among Arizona water users have been mitigated by the fact that, generally speaking, there has been enough to go around. Now that we are approaching the limits of what our streams and aquifers can provide, it becomes essential to know exactly what water rights each user has.
For example, if a particular user can project that it only has the legal right to a quantity that will meet its needs through the day after tomorrow, it must plan to pay for more — provided such supplies are available. A party whose legal rights secure its needs far into the future might be a temporary source for the user with inferior rights.
But no one can know how to plan or what to invest without knowing his rights.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) completed their Strategic Vision for Arizona Water Supply Sustainability in January 2014, which included as its number one strategic priority, "Resolution of Indian and Non-Indian Water Rights Claims." Notably, another of the six priorities is "Supply Importation-Desalination," which could mean expensive privatized water imported from a plant in Sonora that would remove salt from the water from the Sea of Cortez. Morrison and Kyl also discussed the inevitability of desalination in their opinion column as well.

The Kyl Center was launched in November 2014 to "jump start the planning process" of the proposals put forth by the ADWR Strategic Vision. In June 2015, SRP held a forum at which Governor Doug Ducey and the director of the Kyl Center, Sarah Porter, spoke on water. In October, 2015, Ducey announced his Water Initiative, which is meant to implement the Strategic Vision, specifically through GWAC, according to his executive order. At this point, Jon Kyl and the Director of the Kyl Center, Sarah Porter wrote, "For the last eight months, [The Kyl Center for Water Policy] has been working with representatives of water users to develop a consensus proposal for expediting resolution of the claims."
The twenty-nine names of the GWAC were announced in December. Five people who were involved in creating the Strategic Vision are on GWAC, including three who are also involved in the Kyl Center.

There does not seem to be any indigenous representation on the council, and as pointed out by various environmental groups, the group primarily seems to represent industry and development. The Nature Conservancy, which is the only environmental group represented on the council, is hardly a voice for those critical of the impact of agribusiness, mining, and development.

The Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal system, the accompanying Navajo Generating Station and the Peabody Coal mines have already caused irreversible damage to Navajo/Dine and Hopi tribes and the environment. CAP has allowed Arizona to expand in a way that continues to exhaust water supplies. CAP water has been used to settle more recent tribal water rights claims so agribusiness and mining companies can continue to deplete and contaminate surface and ground water and so cities can keep growing.

Arizona tribes' interests in resolving water rights claims seem generally to stem primarily from the failure of the federal government to ensure access to adequate clean water to coincide with the rights guaranteed by the Winters Doctrine. Settlements are tricky because they come with big compromises such as giving up the right to sue in the future. Now even CAP water cannot cover all the water rights claims, and is at risk if the Colorado River becomes depleted to the point where Arizona loses to other states with more senior priority water rights.

Augmentation being the operative word, instead of emphasizing conservation, Governor's Water Augmentation Council seeks to secure new or existing water sources. As discussed, various private interests want to resolve the remaining water rights claims. They also want to create new water infrastructure to import desalinated sea water, at another massive expense to the environment, to promote further expansion. SRP's Dave Roberts who is on GWAC, is involved in all the institutions listed in the chart above except for the Kyl Center. He has a major role, especially as part of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, in pushing for the desalination plant, which will be explored in a future post, along with more details on these issues.

Read the Report Back: Governor's Water Augmentation Council's first meeting

Edited to include the fact that Jon Kyl worked for a law firm called Jennings, Strouss and Salmon as part of a team that represented SRP. He became the senior lawyer, and chief lobbyist, for SRP. Source: 

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