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
Key Messages for CRWUA Highlight Arizona’s Achievements, Yet More Efforts Are Needed
The Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA) Annual Conference, held December 11-13, 2013, had “Colorado River—Committed Collaboration” as its theme. Each year water users and officials from throughout the Colorado River Basin convene in Las Vegas to discuss the current status of Colorado River management and policy. An integral component of the conference is the state caucus breakfasts held prior to the Thursday plenary sessions. Almost 200 people participated in the Arizona breakfast, where a new 15-minute movie about Arizona water accomplishments was shown and updates on some key water matters were provided.
Shortage Projections May Inspire Changes in Thinking
For almost 20 years, Arizona has been preparing for a shortage on the Colorado River through the Arizona Water Banking Authority (AWBA). As I see it, the Legislature created the AWBA in 1996 for two primary purposes. The first was to put our Colorado River allocation, particularly that portion delivered through the Central Arizona Project (CAP), to full use. The second purpose was, given CAP’s low priority in times of shortage, to store water for the future time when a Colorado River shortage would prevent delivery of subcontract water. This latter purpose had several elements to it, namely firming up or making deliveries more reliable for municipal & industrial uses, Indian water, and some on-river communities in times of shortage. The AWBA was also authorized to perform interstate water banking, which it has, pursuant to agreement with Nevada, and store for water management purposes.
Written from Sea
The July 1 deadline for writing this column loomed over me as I looked forward to a late June visit to Alaska. I worried about when I would find the time to write and thought about column content. It’s been such an interesting Spring. After a one-year hiatus due to my 2012 sabbatical, I taught my Arizona Water Policy class to a great group of 14 diverse and questioning graduate students. Since our March conference on Water Security, I participated in some very productive international meetings and conferences, including a first-ever visit to China. The China visit offered some interesting insights and information. However, some new ideas began to take form as I traveled to Alaska on a seven-day cruise, my first trip to our 49th state. So, I offer these impressions and thoughts, which, as the paper stationary in my cruise ship says, are "written from sea".
On Defining and Achieving Water Security
The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study: A Call to Action
In December 2012, the U.S. Department of Interior released the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, with officials referring to it as a “Call to Action”. This massive study, which can be accessed from the web site of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, was three years in the making.
Israel Water Management Program Provides Rich Learning Experience
As regular readers of this column know, I’ve been speaking to the benefits of learning first-hand about water management in other parts of the country and world. During the first half of November, I had the pleasure of exploring water management in Israel with nine others from our region. Through seven days of site visits and interaction with top water experts, we learned about the region’s successes as well as challenges.
Better Understanding Needed of Link Between Water Conservation and Rates
Demand-side management is an essential and well-recognized component of our water management strategies. Yet, like most water topics, water conservation programs are complex and multi-faceted. It is my sense that there is generally a preference for conservation programs that provide incentives over compulsory regulatory programs with penalties. Many like to encourage conservation through tiered pricing programs, where the cost to the consumer of incremental units of water increases as more is used.
Arizona’s Experience a Model for Groundwater Governance
I have been traveling internationally much of the time since my sabbatical started at the end of February. I spent just over one month in Israel as a Lady Davis Visiting Professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, during which time I traveled to Marseille, France for the World Water Forum.
The Value of Getting Out in the Field and Sharing Experiences
I am taking my first-ever sabbatical this Spring semester. My travels and fact-finding will include lectures in Israel and Australia about water policy under conditions of growth and scarcity. I expect to speak about transboundary aquifer assessment and water banking at the Sixth World Water Forum in Marseille, France.
Visit to Oregon Offers Insights into Successful Collaboration
Addressing the water challenges associated with providing water for Arizona’s second 100 years will require stewardship, innovation, and collaboration. It took collaboration to get the Salt River Project and Central Arizona Project built. It took collaboration for the recent test run of the Yuma Desalting Plant, a focus of the WRRC’s 2011 annual conference held last April in Yuma, Arizona. This year’s conference, scheduled for January 24, 2012, is being planned in collaboration with ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, and it will focus on some of the water-related choices that will have to be made throughout the state.
Conference Covers the Five Es of Desalination
By all accounts, the Water Resources Research Center’s 2011 conference on Salinity and Desalination in the Southwest was a success. Over the course of the conference, the excellent speakers did a phenomenal job of covering the challenges and opportunities associated with using desalination technology to address pressing water supply challenges in Arizona, the broader region, and worldwide.
Back to Fundamentals—On Economics and Water Pricing
Some readers of my column may not know that I am an economist by training. As a graduate student and at the start of my professional career, I focused on government tax and expenditure policy as well as applied statistical/econometric work.
Uncertainty: Are We Running Out of Water?
This column focuses on an issue that permeates our state and regional water management challenges: uncertainty. Here are just a few of the uncertainties affecting Arizona’s demand and supply picture. Given the downturn in our national and state economies, will Arizona’s population grow slower than expected?
A Summer Thought — Partnerships Are a Strategy For All Seasons
Summer time is often a time for travel and reflection. Reflecting on different aspects of my work during my summer travels, I see a constant theme emerging — the importance of effective partnerships. By partnerships, I mean people working together to effectuate change and improve water management. For example, our annual conference, dedicated to fostering good water and environmental leadership, relied on partnerships for its success.
Applied Outreach Strategies, a Priority in Awarding UA Distinguished Outreach Professorship
I was very pleased to be notified in midMarch that I am to receive the highest University of Arizona honor for outreach and will officially be awarded the title University Distinguished Outreach Professor at the Winter 2010 Commencement.
Now’s the Time to Fit Together the Pieces of an Arizona Water Plan
Over time, I have become more and more convinced that Arizona needs to do a better job of planning for our water future. We face water challenges within and outside of the Active Management Areas. I suspect no person knowledgeable about our complex water issues would deny we face challenges associated with growth and limited water supplies. Significant uncertainties abound, including those associated with flows of the Colorado River.
Organizing International Workshop Provides Much Behind-the-Scenes Learning
In keeping with the featured theme of the current newsletter, which is the Arizona, Israeli, and Palestinian Water Management and Policy Workshop, my column, usually devoted to water policy matters, will instead discuss some of the lessons learned organizing the event. The broad significance of the workshop along with the challenges and details associated with its planning provided fertile grounds for learning.
AZ Water Planning, A Glass Both Half Filled and Half Empty
During the course of a year, I give over 30 invited lectures and talks to groups ranging from water professionals from foreign countries to local community groups. My usual assignment is to provide an overview of Arizona water management. In my typical 30- to 50-minute presentations I attempt to educate the audience about Arizona’s water management framework.