What, if any, will be the role of the Board of Supervisors in regulating water consumption in Cochise County?

An article in Sunday’s Herald/Review by reporter Shar Porier hinted at that question and envisions the possibility of Supervisors playing a leading role in regulating how much water gets pumped in the county. Speaking at a recent statewide gathering, former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt, who also served as Secretary of the Interior during the Clinton administration (1992-2000), made reference to the need for rural counties to get more active in regulating water consumption.

That idea prompted varying responses from our three county Supervisors. District 1 Supervisor Tom Borer sees a need for the county to be involved. District 3 Supervisor Peggy Judd plans to hold a series of workshops on the issue to inform residents and gather input and District 2 Supervisor Ann English, with more than 20 years of experience on the board, is cognizant of past regulatory efforts that have failed.

Babbitt’s idea starts at the state level, with the Legislature and governor creating county authority to decide whether there should be local regulation of water resources.

That, in itself, makes sense. The state backed away from imposing the requirements of an Active Management Area on rural counties under the 1980 Groundwater Management Act and stakeholders in northeast Cochise County have previously considered — and rejected — adopting the initiative.

Beyond the county’s authority, we can’t ignore the influence of state legislator Gail Griffin, who has played a central role representing rural water interests during Gov. Doug Ducey’s tenure and in the past has opposed efforts to establish regulating authorities in Sierra Vista and Cochise County.

We’re watching a gradual transition of political influence at the state level, from conservative Republicans to Democrats and moderate members of the GOP. The election of U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in 2018 provides evidence of this transition, as does the narrowing Republican majority in the State Legislature.

Voters will have the power to set the direction of both county and state government next year, with every seat in the Legislature and all three supervisors up for election.

When elections roll around in 2020, beginning in August with the primary, we anticipate that where candidates stand on local water issues, and whether water consumption should be regulated at the county level, will be a deciding factor in who gets elected.

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