Arizona Gov. Ducey proposes $1 billion water plant during State of State address
PHOENIX (AP) — Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday proposed setting aside $1 billion to remove the salt from sea water and bring it to Arizona, a major legacy project as he enters his eighth and final year in office.
The Republican governor previewed the plan but offered few details in his annual state of the state address, delivered to a joint session of the House and Senate.
“Instead of just talking about desalination – the technology that made Israel the world’s water superpower – how about we pave the way to make it actually happen?” Ducey said in his nearly hourlong address.
Ducey enters his final year with the state seeing a big budget surplus, a major turnaround from his first speech to lawmakers in 2015 when he faced a $1 billion deficit. Lawmakers also set aside $200 million last year for future water infrastructure.
The western United States is in the midst of a prolonged drought. Cutbacks in Arizona’s allocation of Colorado River water have already forced some farmers to let their fields go fallow, and more cuts are likely down the road absent a major weather turnaround.
Ducey said he has been working on the plan with House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann, both Republicans. He didn’t say where he’d like to build a desalination plant, but water policy experts have long discussed the possibility of using water from the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the nearest sea to Arizona.
Some environmentalists opposed desalination because it’s energy intensive and can be harmful to sea creatures.
Even if lawmakers approve, the project would still be years in the making, but Bowers said Ducey and legislative leaders want to get started while the state has the money available.
“The plan is comprehensive and it’s broad, but all the details legally are going to need a lot of work,” he said. “That’s going to be our focus this year.”