Our strategy for protecting Arizona’s rivers and water has always been to convene the diversity of voices affected by their management. Our partners and members don’t agree on everything, but when it comes to water we’re on the same page. All water users, whether we’re talking about communities, economies, agriculture, birds and wildlife, or our rivers themselves, depend on sustainable and reliable supplies.
This month, we again demonstrated our power to assemble the critical voices in the water conversation by hosting a mid-session policy update at the Rio Salado Audubon Center. Represented at the table were Audubon chapters, hunters and anglers, state and local water managers, other environmental organizations, our policy makers, business interests, water utilities, policy experts at the state and federal level, and more.
These are our top 5 takeaways from the discussion.
- The time to act is now. Referring to ongoing drought and this year’s runoff projections, Clint Chandler, Assistant Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said we’re having “a crummy, no good, terrible year…hydrologically”. We continue to draw more water from the Colorado River than is replenished, snowpack is well below the median, and the probability of a shortage declaration at Lake Mead is increasing at an alarming rate. Under a Tier-1 shortage declaration, Arizona would take the bulk of the cutbacks and we would have little to no room to advocate for Arizona’s rivers and wildlife.
Drought contingency planning offers great opportunity, and failure to act leaves a lot on the table. Among the proposed ways to avoid this bleak outcome is to enact a multi-state Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) and an in-state plan known as DCP+. These plans would help Arizona in two ways. First, they would help Arizona share the burden of a shortage with other states. Second, they would trigger agreements on storage and conservation made in Minute 323 - the binational Colorado River agreement that could help us avoid a shortage in the first place.
- This legislative season has been a disappointment. Warren Tenney, Director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, opened his portion of the meeting by saying he started this legislative season hopeful that we’d see proposals addressing some of our major water challenges. Like us, he is disappointed that not only has the legislature failed to address major Colorado River issues, but it even proposed some big steps backwards.
- Our voice is being heard! So far this legislative season, WRAN’s Arizona membership has sent nearly 2,000 letters to policymakers expressing their concern over the disappointing bills proposed in both the House and Senate. Members have also been actively speaking up using Arizona’s Request to Speak (RTS) system. In fact, during the meeting, Clint Chandler thanked us for the amount of opposition to the recent bad water bills he’s seen in the RTS system
- There is hope, and we are well-positioned to make a difference. The cost of inaction in the face of ongoing drought is high, but our membership across the basin is 65,000 and growing, our voice is being heard, and we’ve proven ourselves to be capable of taking action on a moment’s notice.
Faced with ongoing drought, it’s up to us to emphasize the urgent need to address Arizona’s water issues, stay informed, engage our policy makers, and encourage productive collaboration. We’ll continue to keep you informed about action opportunities as they arise and until then, stay up to speed with the links below.