Alliance Gathers Forces (Including One Of Our Own) To Advance Water Efficiency

By Kathleen Ferris

Carol Ward-Morris, AMWUA’s Assistant Director, has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE). The Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the efficient and sustainable use of water in the United States and Canada. In fact, it’s the only organization in North America focused specifically on this mission.Carol Photo

The greatest single strength of the Alliance may well be its diverse Board of Directors and membership from across the U.S. and Canada who give voice to a wide range of needs and opinions. Board members represent water utilities, government, business and industry, environmental advocacy organizations, and universities and researchers.

Carol is the first AWE Board member from Arizona. She has garnered a reputation in the southwest and nationally for her expertise on water sustainability and conservation. She was instrumental in creating a report on municipal and industrial water conservation and reuse in the Colorado River Basin that was released last year by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

AWE-color-verticalSince opening its office in 2007 in Chicago, the Alliance quickly developed a national water efficiency agenda. Today, nearly 400 organizations have become members and partners in its activities.

The Alliance envisions a world where outdoor water use is as efficient as indoor use and water resources are considered alongside energy, nature, health, development, and food. It’s a future where utility systems are managed optimally to save water and energy and citizens understand the value of sustainable water management.

It’s an ambitious vision, but in fewer than 10 years, the Alliance has established a track record as a driving force for sustainable water use. A snapshot of a few of those accomplishments:

  • AWE serves as an expert source of information, nationally and internationally. It has testified before Congress, drawing attention to the need for federal support for water efficiency policy and funding.
  • It has emerged as a national leader in discussions of the water-energy nexus—the interdependency of water and energy systems and the need to integrate their management to reduce vulnerabilities and increase efficiencies in these systems.
  • AWE’s Water Conservation Tracking Tool enables members to evaluate the water savings, costs, and benefits of water conservation programs, as well as estimate the impacts to utility revenues from those programs. The Alliance’s Financing Sustainable Water initiative provides information, tools, and training to help water managers encourage conservation while generating the revenue needed to deliver quality service and meet financial obligations.
  • AWE has conducted critical research to solve issues related to water and energy, industrial water use efficiency, outdoor water use, and utility financial health. It has published papers on drought planning and managing weather-related risks.
  • The Alliance launched a comprehensive website that includes regular news reports, a legislative watch page, and an extensive online library of technical resources.
  • The Alliance has successfully pushed for significant changes in plumbing and appliance standards and green building codes to increase water use efficiency and savings.

In recognition of its accomplishments, AWE received the 2014 U.S. Water Prize. This prestigious award honors outstanding achievement in the advancement of solutions to our nation’s water challenges.USWP-Logo-Award-Winner-477x353

The Alliance continues to build on these accomplishments. It plans to conduct comprehensive research into outdoor water use programs, assist providers to maintain and operate delivery systems to minimize water loss, ensure utility revenue needs are met while promoting conservation, and work to address the water-energy nexus.

These issues are all important to AMWUA member cities, as well as Arizona’s consumers, researchers, elected leaders, businesses and industries. AMWUA understands the value of a strong network, diverse perspectives, and collaboration in advancing effective policy and programs that address water issues. We are pleased to partner in and to support the work of the Alliance. Arizona is a state that leads in water management and conservation and has information to share and to gain. If you’d like to get involved in the Alliance for Water Efficiency contact Carol at cwardmorris@amwua.org.

 

In Memoriam: Wes Steiner, A Public Servant

By Kathleen Ferris

A great man passed away on January 6, 2016 just shy of his 94th birthday. His name was Wes Steiner. If you weren’t around in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, you might not have heard of Wes. But the western water community knew him well. He was a visionary and a pioneer, and his influence on water management in Arizona has been profound.image.cid

Wes began his career in water in California, where he eventually became the head of the state’s water planning effort.  He advised Governor Pat Brown (yes, Jerry’s father) on steps California should take to plan for its water future.  He had an enviable job, but Arizona lured him away for the chance to work on a big, complicated and politically challenging engineering project.  It was known as the Central Arizona Project and the state was counting on it to bring a large share of Arizona’s Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson and parts in between. 

Wes became the state’s Chief Engineer and head of the Arizona Water Commission.  At the same time that he was lobbying Congress to authorize the construction of the Central Arizona Project, Wes began developing an Arizona State Water Plan to advance prudent use of our limited water resources.  The State Water Plan, published in 1975, sounded an alarm about the state’s severe over-dependence on groundwater supplies.  It stated pointedly, “For years Arizonans have been using water more rapidly that Mother Nature has replenished it.  This is possible only through the massive borrowing of waters banked as groundwater reserves in past geologic ages.”  The Plan urged that steps to be taken to reduce this overdraft.

When the legislature established the Groundwater Management Study Commission in 1978, Wes became its foremost technical consultant.  He did additional studies, made recommendations and argued passionately for what he thought was needed.  He had a monumental influence on ensuring that the 1980 Groundwater Management Act would result in needed change. 

That influence continued as he stepped into the role of the first Director of the newly established Arizona Department of Water Resources.  Like most engineers, Wes was methodical and precise, but he could write like the dickens, a skill that served him well in this new position. He hired the best and the brightest, demanded excellence and built a first-class agency.  Many of today’s Arizona water professionals began their careers at the new agency. 

The Department’s achievements under Wes’s leadership include the successful defense of Arizona’s Colorado River rights before the United States Supreme Court, and convincing state and federal courts that the Groundwater Management Act should be upheld.  He played an important part in the federal approval of the Central Arizona Project and recommended to the Secretary of the Interior how the Project’s supplies should be allocated.

Former Governor Bruce Babbitt has said of Wes, “Everything that we achieved for Arizona’s water future on my watch had its origins in his advice and counsel and knowledge.  His monument is everywhere in water administration and legislation and that wonderful way of bringing all us fractious Arizonans together at critical times.”

Wes hired me to serve as his Chief Counsel shortly after the new Department of Water Resources was established in 1980.  It was a dream job in a golden time in state government.  But it was Wes who made that so.  He supported and mentored me, and ultimately recommended that Governor Babbitt appoint me to succeed him.  I am forever blessed by our friendship.  He was kind, accessible and forthright, and people liked and admired him.  Smart, courageous and fair, he was an extraordinary public servant.  

For 46 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.

Wanted: A Few Good Leaders

By Kathleen Ferris

“Lead” is a verb. It means to guide, to show the way. Protecting Arizona’s water future will require our elected officials to lead us forward the way past generations took charge when it mattered before.

There is no better example of the kind of leadership needed than was exhibited in the passage of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act

In 1978, the legislature established the Groundwater Management Study Commission to craft new laws to stop the severe over-pumping of groundwater that had plagued the state for decades.  Given 50 prior years of unsuccessful attempts to manage groundwater, many thought the Commission was doomed to fail. 

But Senate President Stan Turley, House Majority Leader Burton Barr, Senate Minority Leader Alfredo Gutierrez, and Governor Bruce Babbitt worked hand-in-hand in a bi-partisan, neutral effort to drive the Commission to success.  They demanded that the interested water users compromise to achieve consensus.  As Jim Bush, who represented the Arizona Mining Association in the negotiations of the Act, would later say, “You couldn’t resist making some changes even if it went against your position.  You had to give in on some things. That was something I’d never faced before.”

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Signing of the Arizona Groundwater Management Act of 1980

The Groundwater Management Act that resulted from this leadership and compromise is a major reason Arizona is not in a crisis during this time of extended drought.

Another elected leader stepped up in 1986 when cities and others were pushing for the right to store water underground by artificial means so they could pump it back out when needed. 

Senate Majority Leader Bob Usdane supported this idea, but state law had to be amended to protect the significant investments that would be required.  When the parties could not agree on the provisions to accomplish that, the Senator ordered me to his office (as Director of the Department of Water Resources), showed me to his conference table, and told me to sit down and draft a bill.  He asked only that 5 percent of all water stored be left underground permanently to help protect our groundwater supplies.  Usdane’s bill, known as the Underground Storage Act, has resulted in the underground storage of nearly 9 million acre-feet of water for the future.  His leadership is yet another reason Arizona is not in a crisis despite the drought.

In 1987, Representative Larry Hawke of Tucson realized that the wasteful practice of using drinking water to fill man-made subdivision lakes so homeowners could live on waterfront property could no longer be tolerated in our desert environment.  Calling stakeholders to the basement of the House, he announced he would run a bill to ban these subdivision lakes, to the dismay of some developers.  Over a series of meetings, he personally led the parties to compromise and agree on the terms of the “Lakes Bill,” which was enacted that same year. 

There are other notable examples of past leadership on water matters, including 1996 legislation establishing the Arizona Water Banking Authority to store unused Central Arizona Project water underground for use in times of future Colorado River shortages.  In the last two decades, however, most efforts to pass significant water legislation have been stymied.  Faced with conflict among water users, legislators have been reluctant to get involved.  Left to their own, the water users have failed to compromise, resulting in inaction all around.

It is clear to most Arizonans that we face serious water issues that only the legislature can address.  In areas of the state like Willcox and Kingman –  where the Groundwater Management Act does not apply – domestic wells are going dry while farmers dig deeper and deeper for dwindling supplies.  Meanwhile, funding for necessary water and wastewater infrastructure (treatment plants and pipelines) is limited or unavailable.  The state Water Infrastructure Financing Authority (WIFA) calculates that Arizona will require $7.4 billion for drinking water infrastructure and $5.2 billion for wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years just to maintain our current capacity.  But the legislature has failed to put money in the Water Supply Development Revolving Fund that it established to provide low-interest loans to water providers to help build that infrastructure.

Addressing these and other water issues will require real leaders and leadership.  Our legislators must learn about water, bring stakeholders together, maintain neutrality and insist on compromise.  This year, the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy will initiate a Leadership Roundtable series to educate elected officials on water and engage them in crucial water policy discussions.  Named after former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, a universally respected water expert and leader, the Kyl Center is the right organization to help build the leadership necessary to continue Arizona’s legacy of sound water management.  In the mean time, Arizona citizens should get the word out that we still want and need our leaders to lead.

For 46 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.

 

Stop Talking: Five Actions To Secure Arizona’s Water Future

By Kathleen Ferris

2015 was a big year for headlines and stories about water and, given the nearly 16-year drought, we can expect no less in 2016. That’s a good thing because it keeps the momentum going for necessary change.

But words alone will not ensure a sustainable water supply for Arizona’s future. Here are five actions that leaders need to take in 2016 to help keep the state prosperous.

1. The Arizona Legislature should adequately fund the Arizona Department of Water Resources. By law, the department’s employees are responsible for managing all the state’s groundwater  and surface (river) water resources. The legislature has also directed ADWR to protect Arizona’s rights to Colorado River water, which is shared by seven states. These important responsibilities require the department to attract and keep the best minds in the industry. That takes money.

2. ADWR must implement Governor Ducey’s Arizona Water Initiative.  ADWR needs to hire (see above) planning and hydrology staff to identify and prioritize the areas of the state most affected by water supply challenges and work with local residents and businesses and community leaders to create solutions to meet their future water needs.

3. The Legislature and water attorneys need to agree on meaningful steps to resolve 40-year-old court proceedings to determine who has rights to in-state surface (river) water. This means we must come to grips with the fact that some well owners are pumping sub-flow (water from streams and rivers), not groundwater. This harms riparian areas and others who depend on river water. To accomplish this, we may need to augment some water supplies or offer incentives to reduce pumping from wells.

globe hwy 70 pipe24. Arizona must find ways to finance critical water and wastewater infrastructure in rural areas.  The legislature could jump start this effort by making state funds available to the Water Supply Development Revolving Fund, which is overseen by WIFA, an agency that helps private water companies and public water departments get reduced-interest loans to build drinking water and wastewater projects.

5. Arizonans should not lose sight of the importance of groundwater management.  In many rural areas of the state, homeowners’ wells are running dry and farmers are drilling deeper and deeper for dwindling groundwater supplies. State law needs to be amended to give these rural areas the flexibility to fix the problems specific to their communities. In the more populated areas of the state, we need to shore up efforts to replace the groundwater we use and ensure that our groundwater supplies are protected for the long-term.

These are challenging actions that will take leadership, resolve and compromise.  But success on these fronts could lead to headlines that would make us proud.

For 46 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.