December 17, 2004
Gov. Janet Napolitano on Thursday said she intends to push more forcefully to turn talk about a "culture of conservation’’ into action to secure Arizona’s water resources for the future.
State Rep. Tom O’Halleran, R-Sedona, expressed support for the governor’s goal.
O’Halleran is a member of the governor’s Drought Task Force and the Western States Water Council.
He and Napolitano spoke Thursday to more than 100 land developers, real estate agents and attorneys gathered at the Phoenix Art Museum.
They called water issues — especially potential long-term drought — among the state’s most critical challenges, and said measures must be taken soon to p revent water shortages in the next 20 years.
Both said the days of building and developing first and putting off questions about long-term water supply until later must end.
"This is about our ability to sustain our economy," O’Halleran said. "Growth is coming faster . . . and we need to be out in front of it."
State leaders have for too long skirted tough decisions about water management, often letting entrenched special interests squelch proposals that would serve the broader public interest, O’Halleran said.
Lawmakers now must "look (the problem) in the eye and deal with it,’’ he said.
Napolitano stressed that conservation efforts must go beyond legislative actions, and said she will ask local communities to do more extensive water management planning and promote conservation.
She repeated her proposal for the three state universities to form a consortium to provide state and local officials with the scientific and engineering expertise to guide water planning decisions.
O’Halleran said he will urge that some funding and staffing cuts made to the Arizona Department of Water Resources in recent years be restored so that it can complete research necessary for making sound water policy.
Devising a water policy and implementing it will be one of the most complex tasks in Arizona’s history, said Michael Pearce, an attorney who served as legal counsel for the state water department and helped form the Arizona Water Banking Authority.