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Some taking Arizona’s water future with a grain of salt

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 6:42 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Gov. Doug Ducey says he’s all in for desalination to augment Arizona’s water supply which has taken a big hit during the prolonged drought.

“Our goal, secure Arizona’s water future for the next one hundred years,” the Governor said in his eighth and final state of the state address on January 10, 2022. “We propose that we make a historic investment.. one billion dollars.”

Desalination has been talked about in Arizona for a long time even with the construction of the Central Arizona project which supplies most of the water used by Phoenix and Tucson.

Seven states use Colorado River water and with unprecedented growth, Lake Mead and Lake Powell are now at only 30% capacity and dropping.

Either cut use dramatically or find other source.

Pima County has been studying the possibility of importing desalinated water from the Sea of Cortez. It’s estimated the cost of a desalination plant and the 160 mile pipeline to get it to Avra Valley would cost $4.1 billion.

The county has not acted on the plan but in a 2016 proclamation with the Mayor of Puerto Panasco, Mexico, the county cited the “exploration of desalination services.”

A report by the Central Arizona Project last year also cited the value of “binational desalination” to augment the Arizona water supply.

But not everyone is a fan.

“I think it’s an absurd proposal to be honest with you,” said Ward 6 City Council member Steve Kozachik.

In his mind, it’s just not the high cost of such a project, but the fact it may give Tucson water customer a false sense of security over conservation.

“As long as we pretend we can come up with other sources of water, we’re going to take our eye off the ball and that ball is using too much water in a drought in a desert,” he said. “And that’s the issue.”

It’s also estimated a $4 billion investment in a desalination facility and pipeline, while easing concern about the future water supply, could add as much as $60 a month to the average water bill.

“I think we need to start to be more comfortable with our water costs going up in the future,” said Marc Campbell, the head of sustainability programs for the Salt River Project. “One of the biggest challenges I think we have looking to the future, regardless of which water supply we develop, is keeping water affordable.”

But Governor Ducey feels those costs will come down making it more affordable as technology continues to cut into the cost structure.

“The technology has been improved and has become more efficient over time,” he said. “This is something that there’s much more to follow on this.”

The $1 billion up front will help insure a sustainable water future.

“100 per cent focused on desalination, how it will happen, when it will happen and what it will mean for Arizona going forward,” the Governor said.

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