Cunningham: Griffin's water-audit bill would be wasteful duplication

House Bill 2030, authored by state Rep. Gail Griffin from Sierra Vista, is moving through the Legislature. It would require larger municipal water services, such as Tucson’s, to conduct an audit of their cost of service and rates.

Some read that and think, well, that doesn’t sound so bad. The interest here is in “transparency,” say the bill’s backers. There’s a bit more to it than that.

For one, this information is already publicly available. Here in Tucson, as a matter of fact, much of this data is what gets reviewed by the Citizen’s Water Advisory Committee at mandatory public hearings.

To mandate that a municipal water company pay a private entity to do work again that is already being paid for by ratepayers is exactly the sort of wasteful spending that, presumably, the people that pushed this bill claim they are against.

Despite the progress this bill has made, which has been entirely on the basis of partisan votes, I have been told not to worry about it. It is opposed by the Arizona League of Cities and Towns and even more conservative municipalities like Glendale are on record against it. Should it pass the House and Senate, it will almost assuredly get vetoed by Gov. Katie Hobbs.

By the way, I’d like to give credit to two of the Tucson representatives on the Natural Resources, Water and Energy Committee who voted against moving the bill forward. Thank you Reps. Christopher Mathis and Betty Villegas.

The origin of this and a whole raft of other bills was a move by Gov. Hobbs last year that limited the ability of new housing developments to use groundwater. As a result, we’ve got a flurry of proposed legislation like this to either interfere with the way local jurisdictions manage water or create loopholes in the definition of assured supply.

Many of these bills are aimed at one particular frustration of a set of developers in Phoenix, but have consequences for the way our city manages its water for Tucsonans. Water policy is a complex thing, and it doesn’t seem like people considered how policy changes in one area will affect another.

Hobbs recognizes the slow-motion crisis we are in when it comes to water, and I support the steps she’s taken, whether it was last year’s action on development in the Phoenix area or more recent steps like pulling the permits of out-of-state interests who are wasting our water.

Again, thank you to our Tucson legislators and our city’s government relations team for opposing this. I’ll continue to keep you up-to-date.