Every year is an important year for water resources in Arizona, and 2018 was no exception. Thanks to WRAN’s growing membership, partnerships both new and old, and creative approaches to advocacy, we made significant progress and have left ourselves well positioned to have an even bigger impact in 2019. Read on to learn about some of this year’s wins and opportunities to take action in the year ahead.
- Protecting our rivers from bad policy
Early in Arizona’s 2017/18 legislative session, legislators in the House and Senate introduced a series of bills that contained some big steps back from Arizona’s history of sound water policy. Most notably, they aimed to weaken Arizona’s Groundwater Management Act much like legislation that WRAN helped to defeat in 2016. Protecting Arizona’s groundwater is critical to the health of our rivers, especially as cuts to the state’s Colorado River water supplies become increasingly likely.
Arizona WRAN wasted no time speaking out against this ill-conceived legislation, sending over 2,000 letters to House and Senate membership. Partner organizations, our Wildlife Resources Partners, the Western Rivers Brewers Council, and more amplified your voice, and together we succeeded in preventing these bills from becoming law.
Making progress towards a Drought Contingency Plan
A new deadline has come down from the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), Brenda Burman - Arizona and the other states have until January 31 to approve their respective commitments to the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). After that, the Feds say they will act by opening up a notice in the Federal Register, where they will solicit comments from the states on what BOR actions can best reduce the “unacceptably high” risk to Lakes Mead and Powell and the Colorado River.
While Arizona and California may be close to the completion of DCP, Burman commented that “close isn’t done” and “only done will protect this Basin.” As the Arizona Legislature opens up its 2019 session on January 14, there is much work to accomplish in a short amount of time. Ultimately, the Arizona Legislature must provide authorization for the Arizona Department of Water Resources to implement Arizona’s commitment to the Drought Contingency Plan. Stay tuned for opportunities to take action in the coming year.
Raising a glass for Arizona’s rivers
This year, membership in the Western Rivers Brewers’ Council grew to 21 with members in both Arizona and Colorado. These conservation-minded craft brewers’ actions took many forms – opinions published in local papers, in-person meetings, coalition letters, media support, and more. Most notably, they launched several collaborative brews that helped us reach new audiences with opportunities to take action. Through this work, we even managed to put the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo and the DCP on the front page of the Arizona Republic.
We are already working on new projects for 2019. Join us for the Yuma Birding, Nature, and History Festival and the release of Ridgway’s Rail IPA on January 4th, and stay tuned for more information about a February release celebrating the Salt River!
- Federal funding for Colorado River research and restoration programs
The Arizona Wildlife Federation, Audubon Arizona, Arizona Trout Unlimited, and the Arizona Elk Society advocated for the restoration of funding from power revenues to continue to be dedicated to the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, the San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program, and the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program. These programs all rely on funding annually to effectively implement environmental stewardship and endangered species recovery efforts. The victory came in the form of the House Resolution 5895: Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act. Representative Tom O’Halleran of Arizona Congressional District 1 was a major champion of restoring this funding.
Bringing everyone to the table
We know that to protect Arizona’s rivers, all of Arizona’s water users need to be engaged. For this reason, we took multiple opportunities this year to gather Arizona’s water experts and stakeholders to discuss our shared water resources and all that depends on them. Check out the links below to learn more about some of these gatherings.
- Celebrating the Year of the Bird
In September, Governor Doug Ducey signed a proclamation designating 2018 as Year of the Bird in Arizona. The announcement celebrates native and migratory birds making their way through Arizona and the Grand Canyon State’s remarkable landscapes, as well as the water resources that support them. The proclamation notes Arizona’s critical river habitats that “provide for migrating and resident birds, as well as sustain economies and livelihoods.” Learn more about this exciting proclamation here.
- Exploring history and birds through art
Last month, the Arizona Community Foundation announced that Audubon Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community's Huhugam Heritage Center, and artists from the Gila River Indian Community and the Medio Completo Arts Collective were selected as one of five teams to win the Water Public Art Challenge. Through this collaborative project, we will weave together stories of Huhugam history and continued connection to the river, recent human migration leading to the growth of the Salt and Gila River Valley, and the birds and wildlife that depend on these rivers.
This multi-disciplinary, experiential art event, which will take place on Saturday, November 16, 2019, will allow us to have a community conversation about our complex history with these rivers, our water future, and one another. More details to come!
2018 was a busy year, and we are going to hit the ground running in 2019. Thank you for standing up for Arizona’s rivers and all they support and, as always, stay tuned for opportunities to take action!