Citizen Staff Writer
Four of six local candidates for the board that manages Colorado River water imports – a college professor, a political consultant and two local water company managers – answered questions as a panel Tuesday in the first public forum in the race.
The candidates are vying for four seats representing Pima County on the 15-member Central Arizona Water Conservation District. They would serve six-year terms if elected. The forum was sponsored by Sustainable Tucson, a local green living coalition.
One topic of discussion was the district’s effort to increase the amount of water in the 336-mile Central Arizona Project canal, which brings river water here from Lake Havasu.
The district recently launched a multiyear project called ADD Water, which is an acronym for acquire, develop and deliver water. The plan is to head off competition by having the district seek new water for Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties. All candidates at the forum support the effort.
The project will help ensure that water is fairly distributed, said Arturo Gabaldón, president of Community Water Company of Green Valley.
Research should be ongoing into technology, such as cloud seeding to spur rain or snow, said Sharon Megdal, a University of Arizona professor who is director of the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center.
Desalination plants are unlikely as a water source in Arizona. They would more likely be in California, allowing Arizona to divert river water for use here, Megdal said.
The state should pursue even outlandish ideas, said Warren Tenney, assistant general manager of Metropolitan Domestic Water Improvement District.
He pointed out that when the CAP canal was proposed in 1922, it was a high-tech option that seemed impossible to critics.
“I think it’s important for us to think big,” he said.
When the CAP canal was built, the Bureau of Reclamation required the district to study river augmentation, said Carol Zimmerman, a political consultant seeking a second board term.
“It’s important to fulfill that commitment,” she said.
When a pipeline to bring in desalinated sea water from Mexico was proposed years ago, people laughed, Megdal said. “Not everybody’s laughing anymore,” she said.
The panel was asked how the CAP system could be made more environmentally friendly.
Tenney called the intersection between water and electricity a “critical nexus.” One way to make the system more green is to use less water, he said.
“The less water you use, the less power is needed to deliver it,” Tenney said.
Gabaldón echoed that sentiment, saying that we have to look to ourselves to conserve.
“We are the problem,” he said.
The district is investigating augmenting power with solar panels, Zimmerman said.
Two candidates faced criticism from questioners.
Zimmerman dismissed criticism of a $200 campaign contribution from Rosemont Copper Vice President Jamie Sturgess. Rosemont has plans to use 5,000 acre-feet of groundwater annually for a mine south of Tucson.
“He’s a personal friend,” Zimmerman said.
Gabaldón was asked if he faces a conflict of interest in running for the board when he has supported Rosemont’s effort to pay for a water line to bring CAP water to the Green Valley area for recharge.
He denies a conflict. His company does not have a stance on the mine, and the pipeline would be built regardless of mine approval, he said.
The candidates agreed that the use of water policy – at least on the district level – is unlikely. The board’s responsibility is to meet demand set by local jurisdictions, not help those jurisdictions set demand, they said.
Diamond Ventures big contributors
Employees of real estate development firm Diamond Ventures are the big contributors so far in the six-person race for four Pima County seats on the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors, according to campaign filings for the period Jan. 1-June 30.
Two candidates have no reportable donations or expenses (reporting is required if total contributions or expenses top $500). Diamond employees gave $5,780 of the $13,280 collected by the other four candidates.
Highlights of who gave what to which candidate:
Arturo Gabaldón, president of Community Water Company of Green Valley: Filed an exemption to reporting because he intends to collect and spend less that $500. At a candidate forum Tuesday, he sheepishly said he has collected $50 from his cousin and $150 from a friend.
Pat Jacobs: Also filed an exemption to reporting.
The following candidates are running as a bloc:
Sharon Megdal, director of the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center: Collected $1,895, with $1,645 coming from 10 Diamond Ventures employees.
Steve Lenihan, land-use attorney: Collected $2,135, with $1,395 coming from nine Diamond employees.
Warren Tenney, assistant general manager of Metropolitan Domestic Water Improvement District: Collected $3,615. Nine Diamond employees gave a combined $1,195. Other contributors include Dennis Rule, an administrator for Tucson Water ($25); Marana farm empire patriarch Herb Kai ($390); Val Little, director of Water CASA, a conservation collaborative of southern Arizona water providers ($50); David Crockett, manager of Flowing Wells Irrigation District ($25)
Carol Zimmerman, political consultant and incumbent on the CAWCD board: Collected $5,635. Nine Diamond employees combined gave $1,545. Other contributors include: Jamie Sturgess, Rosemont Copper vice president of projects and environment ($200); Herb Kai and wife Diana ($390 each); UA professor and former Tucson mayor Tom Volgy ($50); Southern Arizona Home Builders Association ($390); John Bremond, former president of KB Home Tucson ($100); car dealership owner Jim Click ($390)
District manages CAP
The Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) Board of Directors manages the Central Arizona Project, which is the system that brings Colorado River water to southern Arizona.
The system includes the 336-mile CAP canal and the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD) an arm of the CAWCD that replenishes the state’s aquifers with river water to replace pumped groundwater.
In fiscal 2008, which ended June 30, the CAWCD had $282.1 million in revenue from water sales, electricity sales and property taxes and $234.1 million in expenses.
The board levies three taxes. Two of the taxes – the CAWCD and water bank charges – are collected on all homes countywide. The two taxes combined are 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
The third tax – for the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District – is collected only on homes in areas not served by providers with assured water supply designation.
Those homes are charged for the cost of having the CAGRD replace the groundwater they use with CAP water. The charge differs home to home based on water use.
The board collected $63.2 million in property taxes during fiscal 2008. Other revenue was from the sale of electricity from the Navajo generating plant the CAWCD co-owns with Salt River Project.