Part of the Central Arizona Project, which brings water from Lake Mead to Maricopa, Pima and Pinal Counties.EXPAND
Part of the Central Arizona Project, which brings water from Lake Mead to Maricopa, Pima and Pinal Counties.
Wikimedia Commons

WTF Is the CAWCD? A Guide for the Perplexed Maricopa County Voter

You’ve unfolded your 2018 ballot, or you're in the voting booth, and you quickly find yourself frowning over the slew of candidates listed below CENTRAL AZ WATER CNSRV DIST. There are 14 names. You’re supposed to pick five.

WTF is CENTRAL AZ WATER CNSRV DIST (translation: the Central Arizona Water Conservation District), who TF are these 14 names, and why TF do they matter? Read on.

The board of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District oversees the Central Arizona Project — and CAP is all about the "canal." The CAP canal is a series of aqueducts, tunnels, pumps, and pipelines 336 miles long that transports water from Lake Mead on the Colorado River to Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties. More than 5 million people depend on this, the largest source of renewable water in Arizona.

Fifteen nonpartisan board members — 10 from Maricopa County, four from Pima, and one from Pinal — volunteer their time to keep the canal flowing smoothly. Their terms last six years. This year, five of the 15 seats in Maricopa County are up for grabs, and the 14 people below are vying for those five seats.

As Warren Tenney, director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users’ Association, pleaded in a recent blog post, “Make a well-educated selection. Above all, please do not just randomly vote or pick names that sound good.”

CAP is a water wholesaler, delivering water to farmers, cities, municipalities, utilities, and tribes. Its board sets water rates, and changes in those rates could potentially trickle down to consumers (that's you, voter!).

The board is authorized to levy two property taxes in order to repay the federal loan that helped fund construction of the Central Arizona Project in the 1970s and its subsequent operation and maintenance. CAP currently owes the federal government $1.65 billion. The CAWCD also sets groundwater policies and plans that directly affect development in Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties.

Finally, the CAWCD plays an important role in Arizona’s plans to deal with a potential drought on the Colorado River, which could happen as soon as 2020. In order for that plan to go forward, board members have to vote in favor of it. Arizona is part of a multistate effort to address this drought and resulting shortages; the ongoing negotiations  are highly contentious within Arizona.

“We’re in a more critical time with respect to CAP than we have been,” Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University, said. “The board is going to be responsible for important decisions.”

Being a CAP board member is “really an act of public service,” Porter added. “There’s a high degree of understanding about water policy required,” she said, but board members often have a great deal to learn on the job, even if they have a background in water.

The Central Arizona Water Conservation District makes decisions about this canal, a vital source of water for Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima Counties.EXPAND
The Central Arizona Water Conservation District makes decisions about this canal, a vital source of water for Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima Counties.

Contrary to some election flyers that have been mailed out, the CAWCD is not responsible for water quality or clean water, at least as far as water treatment is concerned. That's the job of the utilities and cities that the Central Arizona Project sells water to.

In alphabetical order, here is the cast of characters, with incumbents listed first. For these summaries, we sifted through information from campaign websites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, elections-focused sites like Ballotpedia, and information candidates provided to the Arizona Republic's 2018 Voters Guide.

Incumbents:

Lisa A. Atkins is the current president and has been on the board since 2003. She is also the commissioner of the Arizona State Land Department, appointed by Governor Doug Ducey in 2015. For more than 20 years, she was the chief of staff to former U.S. Congressman Bob Stump. In appointing her, Ducey described her as having a "strong business background and commitment to economic growth."

Terry Goddard has been on the board since 2012, although he also served for a few years in the early 2000s, before he became Arizona's attorney general for eight years. Way back in the 1980s, he was the mayor of Phoenix. He ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2014.

Heather A. Macre has been on the board since 2012. She’s a bankruptcy attorney, according to the resume posted on her website, and she also represents physicians and health care and medical groups in regulatory issues. According to her detailed campaign platform, she's worked on water conservation programs and wants to update groundwater management policies, among other goals.

Newcomers:

From what we can tell, Frank Lee Archer doesn't seem that committed to being elected, because there does not seem to be any information available on him. His internet footprint is faint, with no apparent campaign website or social media present. He did not fill out the Voters Guide.

Jim Ballinger was the director of the Phoenix Art Museum for 33 years, retiring in 2014. In the Voters Guide, he said that he was “not an experienced water professional,” but that in the past five years, he worked on a project related to the history of the Hoover Dam. (We're wondering: Does that compensate for lack of hydro-experience?) He credits his time at the Phoenix Art Museum with giving him strengths like listening and compromising — skills we hope anyone running for public office will have.

Alan Dulaney has a master's degree in geology. Since 2007, he has been Peoria's water policy administrator, meaning that he represents the city at organizations like CAWCD. His campaign website features a long list of extremely technical/bureaucratic duties that he's done as part of that job; venture to that page, if you wish. Before that, he was with the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. He is an active member of the Arizona Hydrological Society.

On LinkedIn, Kerry Giangobbe describes herself as the owner/CFO of a vascular surgery practice, Veincare of Arizona. (We are trying hard to see the connection between CAP and Veincare of Arizona. Maybe water canals are like veins?) In the Voters Guide, she wrote that she had “studied policy and water issues” and had “an MBA and a strong business background.” She says she will bring a “medical/healthcare background to improving our water quality,” which reminds us to reiterate that water quality and treatment are not under the purview of the CAWCD. Giangobbe's recent tweets are an entertaining mix of politics and photos of royals.

Next up, we have Jim Iannuzo, an electrical engineer. On his campaign website, he lists his political experience as "chairing a political party and serving on local boards." In 2014, he was a Libertarian candidate for the Arizona State Senate. To ensure a sustainable, predictable water supply for Arizona, he writes, "My approach will look at best practices, work with other agencies but not be afraid to question orthodoxy as required." Hmm.

Jennifer Martin spent 10 years as a wildlife biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, including five as its commissioner, according to her profile on the Arizona List. She's been the water expert for the Sierra Club for four years, and she advocates for water conservation. She told the magazine Green Living, "I am committed to ... keeping water in Arizona's rivers for the beautiful places they give us, for the wildlife that depend on them, and for the sake of the rivers themselves."

April M. Pinger is hard to pin down. A LinkedIn profile under that name could not be verified as belonging to this candidate, and she does not appear to have a campaign website.

Daniel W. Schweiker is not to be confused with Arizona Congressman David Schweikert, who is running for re-election 2018. Schweiker is a businessman who co-founded China Mist Tea and served on the Paradise Valley Town Council. While he ran China Mist Tea, according to Schweiker, “understanding water policy was not only important for our product but also in understanding economic trends.” He is currently the CEO of Elite Restaurants in Scottsdale, his LinkedIn site states. His campaign website says he's running because "he believes it is time a businessman with a track record of success and solutions joined the Board."

Ronald Sereny: There's not much out there on this guy. His name is listed on the Arizona Libertarian Party's website as a candidate for the CAWCD. Apparently in July he attended a meeting of the Maricopa Libertarian Party to talk about the CAWCD race. Seems like he might be ... a Libertarian, but that doesn't tell us anything about his expertise in water policy.

Rory Van Poucke has been employed at the Apache Sun Golf Club since 1988 as a general manager/golf course superintendent, according to LinkedIn. He ran unsuccessfully for the CAWCD board in 2016. On his website, he writes, "I have been very active in water issues representing the golf industry and specifically my own golf course." His website contains a long list of all the water meetings he's attended in the past (you have to scroll through the pictures and endorsements, though). He's been endorsed by Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs. His Twitter feed gives a clear sense of his politics.

Chris Will is a sales associate. In the Voters Guide, her full answer to the question about her background and experience in water policy was, “I am a homeowner and have followed news about the Central Arizona Project since its planning phase.” (The Central Arizona Project got its start in 1946.) On her website from 2016, when she ran for state Senate as a write-in Libertarian candidate, she described herself as "a meat librarian at Wall-Mart." She said she had also been a "photographer, bookseller, writer, potter, credit analyst, [and] filmmaker." The title of her more up-to-date Facebook campaign page is "Chris Will, Adventures in Politics."

Congratulations on making it to the end! Now go fill in those weird arrow thingies.

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