State budget sweeps drain water funds

Phoenix, AZ – A new lawsuit claims that a budget-balancing maneuver by the
Legislature could leave residents high and dry -- literally.

Lawmakers have bridged the gap between revenues and expenses for
years by what they call sweeping special funds. These are dollars
that have been raised and set aside for specific purposes. What's
at issue here is $100 million Arizona got in a 2004 deal with
Nevada to let that state use some of this state's Colorado River
water supply for the next three decades while it looks for other
sources. Attorney Bob Lynch said that money is important because
Arizona is supposed to use it to bank at least 400 billion
gallons of water for future use in this state -- specifically,
for the time when the demand here is higher than the Secretary of
the Interior says Arizona can take from the Colorado River.

"This is one of these things where we're stabbing ourselves in
the back. If we take the money and don't buy water and put it in
the ground, then when it hits the fan and the secretary starts
scratching everything back, Nevada continues to take water out of
Lake Mead like nothing happened, and we cut back."

Lynch said the state has so far taken nearly $14 million of that
money that should be used for water storatge projects. He wants
the state Supreme Court to declare at least the most recent
seizure of $5.4 million ruled illegal and bar lawmakers from
trying to take more.