Today kicked off Israel’s annual WATEC Conference, a prestigious international water conference that attracts high level leaders and government officials from all over the world. Among the speakers at this year’s conference are the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, former Prime Minister and President of Israel Shimon Peres, and Arizona’s own Governor Doug Ducey, who was personally invited to attend and speak by Israeli Minister of the Economy Aryeh Deri.
In his remarks, Gov. Ducey noted the many similarities between Israel and Arizona: both are thriving economies in an arid, desert landscape, and both have been forward-looking in their approach towards water.
For example, Israel’s 1959 Water Law paved the way for it to be the world leader in desalination and for innovation in efficiency and recycling: over 80 percent of Israel’s wastewater is now treated and re-used. As Governor Ducey said, Israel has figured it out.
Arizona has some bragging to do as well. Our state has long been a leader in conservation and is continually improving. Thanks to the foresight and leadership of great water stewards like Sen. Jon Kyl and Rep. Morris Udall, Arizona—like Israel—is in a position of relative comfort as compared to its neighbors when it comes to water.
For example, Arizona’s 1980 Groundwater Management Act created the Department of Water Resources, which centralized all responsibility for water planning and regulation in a single state agency and actively managed and regulated the pumping of groundwater. As a result, Arizona now has 9 million acre feet of water stored underground; enough for 18 million households.
And Arizona’s agricultural sector is a leader in improving water use and efficiency. Growers in Yuma, the nation’s leading producer of winter vegetables, have adapted to new, innovative production and irrigation technologies that have enabled them to improve crop productivity while lowering the amount of water used for irrigation.
Overall, from 1957 to 2013, Arizona reduced its water consumption by 100,000 acre feet. Arizonans use less water now than we did in 1957, yet since then our state’s population has increased six times over and the size of our economy has grown by a factor of 19. That is quite an accomplishment.
Even with Arizona’s effective water planning and significant stores, however, present-day challenges necessitate that we do more. Arizona’s strong agricultural sector and increasing demands on municipal water supplies will continue to put pressure on the state to find even more ways to reduce consumption. Coupled with ongoing drought conditions and the complicated legal framework surrounding Colorado River water rights involving six states, the federal government, and Mexico, Arizona must take advantage of opportunities to collaborate and innovate in areas like water recycling and desalination.
Arizona has no better partner for collaboration in this effort than Israel. Gov. Ducey has already proven to be a leader on water issues, and his participation in WATEC sets the stage for a new era of partnership and collaboration. Following in the footsteps of great water leaders before him, Gov. Ducey is ensuring that water is accorded the respect necessary for Arizona to be in strong shape well after he leaves office.