News - Fall 2012 Newsletter

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New Film on Colorado River Screened, Discussed

On September 19, 2012, the Tucson premiere of WATERSHED, the latest movie release from The Redford Center, was held at the Loft Cinema. The Water Resources Research Center (WRRC), in partnership with the Sonoran Institute and Tucson Audubon, hosted the premiere. Panelists were on hand following the screening to discuss the film and its message.

WATERSHED tells the story of the Colorado River with firsthand perspectives from people who live and work along the River. It provides a compelling view of multiple stressors that affect the vitality of the River and prevent it from reaching its mouth at the Gulf of California. A special plea is made for renewing the River’s delta, where lack of water has destroyed a once thriving ecosystem.

The screening of WATERSHED was followed by a question and answer session and lively panel discussion, moderated by Nina Trasoff, a former City of Tucson Council Member. The panel discussion afforded the opportunity for the panelists to share their work – in Tucson, southern Arizona, and across the border into Mexico – and how it benefits the Colorado River. Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta, Director of the Water and Wetlands Program for Pronatura Noroeste, A.C. and Francisco Zamora Arroyo, Director of the Sonoran Institute’s Colorado Delta Legacy Program, talked particularly about efforts to reinvigorate environmental assets in Mexico and the delta region.

The film’s Director, Mark Decena, from Kontent Films, was on hand to answer questions about the making of the film and to take part in discussions. The WRRC’s Director, Sharon Megdal, and Luther Propst, Executive Director of the Sonoran Institute, offered perspectives on challenges posed in the film and potential solutions, highlighting actions that Arizonans can take to help improve the Delta region and other natural environments.

Sections of the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Apache Nation, and the city of Gallup, New Mexico have been rapidly depleting groundwater supplies, which are of poor quality and inadequate to meet current and future demands. In September, a $43 million financial assistance agreement for design and construction of a portion of the historic Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project was signed by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly with the hopes of providing a long-term, sustainable water supply. This project will have the capacity to deliver clean running water to a potential future population of approximately 250,000.

The water will be diverted from the San Juan River and travel through 280 miles of pipeline, several pumping stations, and two water treatment plants. Navajo President Ben Shelly said “We are going to bring safe drinking water to thousands of Navajo families. We are also going to create more than 600 jobs for our people.” Construction started in June and water is expected to start flowing in two to three years for the reaches in this agreement. This project is designated as one of 14 high-priority infrastructure projects around the country identified by the Obama Administration that will be expedited through the permitting and environmental review process in an effort to improve the efficiency of federal reviews and more quickly move projects from the drawing board to completion.

Agreement with Mexico Reached on Colorado River Water

Mexican government leaders have been meeting with U.S. officials to develop a pact that adds areas in Mexico to the Colorado River water sharing agreements. This addendum to the 1944 U.S.-Mexico water treaty would link Mexican and U.S. water allocation from the Colorado River during surplus and drought. If approved by water agencies and the seven Western U.S. states that receive Colorado River water, then Mexico would adjust its delivery schedule during low reservoir conditions and have access to additional water if there are high reservoir conditions. The pact also has a commitment to work together on a pilot program involving water for the environment.

SRP - GRIC Partnership to Restore River

The Gila River Indian Community’s long-held dream of restoring portions of the Gila River may soon become a reality. The Community’s nearly 80-year-long struggle to restore its water rights finally ended in 2004 with passage of the Arizona Water Settlements Act. Under that legislation the Community is entitled to up to 311,800 acre-feet of Central Arizona Project water per year, making it the largest single customer of CAP water in Arizona.

The CAP water is key to restoring the Community’s selfsufficient agricultural economy but the Community’s irrigation infrastructure will not be fully built out until 2029, and in the interim, it is not physically able to use its full CAP entitlement. However, this water could be used to restore wetlands and the riparian habitat that is so important to the culture of Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh.

The Community turned to SRP for its expertise in riparian recharge and water storage. That expertise will help the Community recreate a part of the Gila River, while at the same time creating long-term storage credits that it can use and sell, if appropriate, to help finance future riparian recharge activities.

“The Community’s motto is ‘where water flows, life grows’” said Gregory Mendoza, the Community’s Governor. “For the Akimel O’otham, which means the ‘River People,’ the Salt and Gila Rivers were part of our identity, so when the river was diverted, we were not only harmed economically, but culturally and religiously as well.” Governor Mendoza believes that this partnership with SRP marks a new chapter in Arizona’s water history. “We used to be on the opposite sides of the table when it came to water, but now we are partners,” said Governor Mendoza.

This sentiment is echoed by SRP. John Sullivan, SRP’s Chief Resources Executive, noted that the process of working with the Community on the Arizona Water Settlement led to understanding of the importance they place on restoring the Gila River. “The partnership not only will help the Community achieve its objectives, it will make available vital water supplies for growing Valley communities and for SRP water users during periods of severe drought” he said.

The agreement with SRP provides needed expertise in exchange for access to a portion of the Community’s water supply for certain projects and in short supply years.

General Electric Survey Gauges Public Attitudes on Water and Water Reuse

A study conducted by General Electric in October revealed growing’ support for water reuse among Americans because people believe that it could help the U.S. be economically competitive and protect the environment. The survey of 3,000 consumers in the U.S., China, and Singapore found that 83 percent of those polled are concerned about the availability of water and 66 percent of Americans have positive attitudes toward water reuse. More than 80 percent of Americans strongly support using recycled water for non-drinking uses including agricultural irrigation, power generation, landscaping, industrial processing and manufacturing, and toilet flushing. In addition, 84 percent of Americans believe that water resources should be a national priority and 44 percent would be willing to pay more to ensure that future generation are less vulnerable to water shortages.