AZ water department cleared to hire more workers

Posted at 11:35 AM, Jan 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-18 13:35:46-05

Arizona's water department has gotten clearance to use some of its existing resources to hire more workers.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports that Gov. Doug Ducey is allowing the Arizona Department of Water Resources to get around a hiring freeze by using unspent money in its budget to bring in new workers.

Ducey announced the change a week ago during his State of the State address. The announcement came after months of public prodding from water advocates, who called on the state to bolster the water agency's funding.

Tom Buschatzke, director of the Department of Water Resources, said he has about 115 employees in the agency now and has identified six more positions that would help with groundwater management needs, adjudications over water rights and Colorado River concerns.

The move will help the agency fulfill its mission, Buschatzke said.

In 2008, the agency had 244 employees and a budget of about $24 million. In the current fiscal year ending June 30, the department's budget is about $15 million.

"It's certainly not going to get back to the 200-plus number (of employees) that occurred before 2010, but it will be substantially above where I am now," he said.

Water groups like the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association and the Kyl Center for Water Policy have been calling for the state to ramp up funding for the agency. Buschatzke acknowledged the community support went a long way.

Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center, said Ducey "has done a lot recently to demonstrate that he has a commitment to rebuild the Department of Water Resources and look seriously at water in Arizona."

Hiring staffers is a first step in the process of rebuilding the agency and making sure it can achieve its goals, Porter said.