Lawmakers Close To Approving Drought Contingency Plan With $29M Price Tag
With a deadline Thursday, state legislators in the House Committee on Natural Resources, Energy and Water unanimously moved details of a drought contingency plan on to the full House for approval.
The plan recognizes that Arizona will lose a portion of its water rights to the Colorado River and approves $29 million dollars in state subsidies to help farmers adapt, including allowing them to draw from groundwater.
That figure includes an additional $4 million beyond the original proposal offered to offset the cost for farmers to drill new wells and pipelines to their fields.
But Sandy Bahr with the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club says relying on groundwater is unsustainable and a short term fix to a long known problem.
"Now that those shortages are here, perhaps a bit sooner than they anticipated, they want to go back on their deal," she told the committee.
"The amazing thing is not only is the state proposing to allow it, but it's proposing to facilitate it and help pay for it," Bahr complained.
Instead, she suggested, lawmakers should encourage farmers to convert from drought thirsty crops like alfalfa and cotton to more sustainable plants.
Arizona is the last of seven states to approve a plan and the only state requiring lawmakers give final approval.