I have contributed a column to the Arizona Water Resource newsletter since joining the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center in February 2002. As the WRRC closes the book on the quarterly Arizona Water Resource, I am using this 76th column as the foreword to a compilation of my columns.
Public Policy Review
WRRC Director Sharon B. Megdal has contributed to every issue of the WRRC’s Arizona Water Resource newsletter since 2002 with a timely, informative and inspiring public policy column. She has written on topics ranging across the water policy spectrum, from economics and water pricing to governance and citizen participation, conjunctive water management to stream restoration, local water planning to shared international challenges and solutions. With the final issue of Arizona Water Resource in October 2018, the WRRC has produced a complete collection of her columns, many of which have remained relevant over time.
Looking Back . . . Past Columns Shed Light on Current Issues
Reflections on Change and Continuity in WRRC Outreach
This is my 75th Arizona Water Resource (AWR) column since joining the WRRC in February 2002. When I interviewed for the Associate Director position, which I held until becoming Director in July 2004, I expressed interest in contributing a policy column to the newsletter on a regular basis. Over 16 years later, I am pleased to say that I have not missed an issue. It is also with somewhat mixed emotions that I am using this column to inform our readership that we will cease publishing the AWR with the Fall 2018 issue.
Public Policy Review - The Business of Water is Everyone’s Business
On March 28, 2018, the Water Resources Research Center held its annual conference. The topic, The Business of Water, was selected to bring attention to the myriad ways monetary considerations influence water management decisions and investment.
Public Policy Review - Learning About Water Policy
I write this column shortly before the Spring semester starts. Once again, I am going to be teaching a graduate-level water policy course. With the exception of 2012, when I was on sabbatical, I have taught Arizona Water Policy every year since 2005.
Public Policy Review - Comparing Experiences and Lessons Learned: The September 2017 International Conference on Cutting-Edge Solutions to Wicked Water Problems
My work focuses on water policy and management. For over a decade, I have been comparing the policies and management approaches of Israel with those of Arizona and the Colorado River Basin.
Public Policy - The Cooperative Framework for the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program: A Model for Collaborative Transborder Studies
Being part of the team working on the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (TAAP) continues to be gratifying. The International Boundary and Water Commission’s (IBWC) recent publication of the Binational Study of the Transboundary San Pedro Aquifer (San Pedro Study) marked a milestone.
Public Policy - A Spring Full of Productive Activity!
Spring semester is always a busy time of year. I teach my graduate Arizona Water Policy class and convene a seminar class for the Master’s program in Water, Society, and Policy. Students are completing theses, projects, and examinations as they ready for graduation. The Water Resources Research Center recently held its Annual Conference, which it has done every year since 2003.
Bridging Through Water
Since my first professional visit to Israel in 2006, I have endeavored to connect that region and ours through sharing water management challenges and solutions. In late Fall I had the honor of traveling to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan with the two International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) Commissioners, Edward Drusina (U.S.) and Roberto Salmón (Mexico).
The Invisible Water
Water policy discussions around the globe are focusing on groundwater and how to improve its governance and management. Growing water demands and changing climate’s influence on temperature and precipitation patterns have underscored the importance of groundwater – the invisible water.
A New Approach to Raising Water Awareness: Beyond the Mirage
The Water Resources Research Center is proud to have partnered in the Beyond the Mirage project. Beyond the Mirage got its start as an alternative approach to water education and engagement. While both the Layperson’s Guide to Arizona Water and Keeping Arizona’s Water Glass Full, the background report for the 107th Arizona Town Hall held in November 2015, introduce readers to Arizona water issues, today’s busy schedules and reliance on finger-tip information suggested a new approach was warranted to assist the public in becoming more water-aware. The WRRC’s External Advisory Committee confirmed our plans to develop a new and different platform for water information through partnership with Cody Sheehy and the Communications & Cyber Technologies team of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Envisioned as a multi-part project, Beyond the Mirage would include: (1) a series of short, informative video clips, which the viewer could stack into individualized mini-documentaries; (2) a feature-length documentary, professionally produced in cooperation with Arizona Public Media, with John Booth as our key AZPM partner; and (3) classroom learning media for K-12 students. The clips would include a range of topics and voices.
It’s Spring! Time to get out in the field!
Spring Semester is always busy and exciting for me, particularly because I teach my graduate course, Arizona Water Policy. Each year the course is a bit different. Because the course attracts students from many different programs, there is always an interesting mix of student backgrounds and interests. Also, while we cover some of the same topics every year, others vary, depending on what out-of-town experts may pay a visit or what water happenings have recently occurred. Regardless of the variations, one thing remains constant – our all day field trip, about which I have written before. This year the field trip took place on March 4.
It’s Time for Action
Las Vegas is the site of December’s Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA) annual conference. All the basin states and Mexico are in attendance, with Arizona representation usually the largest. This year’s conference marked the first time there were concurrent sessions. It turns out that a statement made during the session I did not attend has caught my attention. Writer Tony Davis reported in the December 27, 2015 edition of the Arizona Daily Star on the presentation made by Jeremy Aquero, a Las Vegas economic analyst, during a session on drought. (I went instead to the concurrent session on agriculture.) Davis reports that Aquero stated: “We are not going to conserve our way to prosperity, or build our way to prosperity, and we are not going to stop growth on our way to prosperity. It will take a master-plan approach to all of those things.”
Collaborative Conference Planning and Continuing the Dialogue
The University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center conference, Indigenous Perspectives on Sustainable Water Practices, was held on June 9-10, 2015. Since our first conference, Local Approaches to Resolving Water Resource Issues, in 2003, the WRRC has organized annual conferences on topics of statewide importance, with the goal of engaging speakers and audiences in thought-provoking and informative dialogue. Recent conferences have focused on water issues faced by Arizonans, including potential water shortages in the Colorado River, groundwater security, and growing urbanization. Although sessions at previous conferences included speakers on tribal water issues, we realized that an Arizona-based conference focused solely on indigenous perspectives and practices related to sustainable water management was lacking.
The two big water stories of the western United States and perhaps the nation are California’s water crisis and the potential for a shortage declaration on the Colorado River. Both are manifestations of drought conditions, as California has experienced a multi-year drought in its critical watersheds and the Colorado River Basin is in its 15th year of drought. The implications for the two states are different thus far. While California is experiencing a widespread water crisis, Arizona is not. California has only recently enacted groundwater management legislation.
Connecting Students to Water Policy and Management in Practice
One of the highlights of the graduate course in Arizona Water Policy I teach each Spring semester is our class field trip. The annual outing provides students with the opportunity to see in practice what we have been exploring in the classroom and through readings. This year’s field trip, conducted on March 27, 2015, included stops at Tucson Water’s Advanced Oxidation Plant for removing localized groundwater contaminants, the Southern Avra Valley Storage and Recovery Project for recharging Colorado River water for current and future use, and the Sweetwater Wetlands for further processing of treated wastewater.
15 Water Wishes for 2015
I am writing this column after attending the annual conference of the Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA), held December 10-12, 2014 in Las Vegas. This year’s conference focused on both the challenges facing the region and some great accomplishments. Despite these accomplishments, there is much to wish for the future. In the end-of-year spirit, I thought I would use my column to put forward some water wishes for 2015. Not all center on the Colorado River, but I’ll start out with a few that do.
Collaborative Efforts Yield Numerous Publications
I have been busy guest editing, along with my Australian colleague Peter Dillon, a special issue of the journal Water on the policy and economics of managed aquifer recharge (MAR) and water banking. This special issue grew out of our involvement in ISMAR9, the October 2013 triennial international conference held on MAR. The papers published to date can be accessed at no charge at http://www.mdpi.com/journal/water/special_issues/MAR. Arizona’s water banking efforts are featured in the paper, “Water banks: Using managed aquifer recharge to meet water policy objectives,” which I wrote with co-authors Peter Dillon and K. Seasholes. The paper summarizes the purpose and performance of the Arizona Water Banking Authority in the context of Colorado River shortage conditions and Arizona’s statutory framework for storage and recovery, along with the applicability of water banking to Australia.
Complex Water Management Issues Require Thorough and Ongoing Dialogues
We in Arizona justifiably speak of our water management accomplishments. The Groundwater Management Act, the completion of the Central Arizona Project, the storage by the Arizona Water Banking Authority, and our recharge statutes have put the most populous parts of our state on a strong footing. We have prepared for anticipated Colorado River shortages by negotiating with the other Colorado River Basin states for shortage declaration criteria that would result in more frequent shortages but more limited cutbacks to Municipal & Industrial (M&I) and Indian deliveries. The Water Banking Authority has stored millions of acre-feet of water for times when shortage would be deep enough to affect M&I and Indian CAP water subcontractors. However, challenges remain. The 2012 Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study was termed a “call to action”. More recent information on the condition of the Colorado River and the probability of a shortage declaration has been referred to as a “wake-up call”.
Learning Globally, Acting Locally
I am writing this column on March 22, 2014, World Water Day (WWD) from my home in Tucson. In 2012, I spent part of WWD teaching a high school class in environmental studies in Nazareth, Israel. In 2013, I participated in the premier WWD program in The Hague. This year, I am spending this day reflecting on the two-way relevance of global connections.