2019: A Year of Achievements and Milestones
By Warren Tenney
During 2019, AMWUA celebrated its 50th year of existence. And over the course of this year we had the opportunity to share the story of AMWUA, highlighting accomplishments of the innovative partnership and collaboration that exists among our ten member municipalities. Throughout 2019, AMWUA also demonstrated how we continue to educate, collaborate and advocate for wise water management in Arizona.
To kick-off our 50th celebration, an official commendation celebrating the milestone was read on behalf of Governor Doug Ducey at the Arizona State Capitol on both the House and Senate Floors. We also had the opportunity to attend city council meetings to share the vital role AMWUA and its members have and continue to play in safeguarding water for residents and businesses in the Valley of the Sun. As Arizona grows, it is vital we protect our diverse water supplies, continue our sound water management, ensuring the best stewardship of water in the face of a drier future.
Celebrating our collective foundational achievements and milestones over the last five decades was definitely a highlight of this past year, but there were also many other accomplishments including the following:
DROUGHT CONTINGENCY PLAN (DCP): On May 20, Arizona along with the six other Colorado River Basin States, signed agreements to make the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) effective. After months of difficult negotiations among stakeholders, legislation authorizing the carefully crafted Implementation Plan and DCP documents were overwhelmingly passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, securing Arizona’s participation in DCP under tight deadlines.
Throughout this process, the AMWUA cities actively supported Arizona’s efforts to protect the Colorado River, which is an important water supply for Central and Southern Arizona. AMWUA and its members were engaged in the creation of the Implementation Plan and have also agreed to contribute water resources and finances to the Implementation Plan. DCP is a good reminder of what Arizona can accomplish when water users increase their understanding of each other's needs and accept the hydrologic reality we collectively face. DCP is an important milestone, but the journey to protect and manage our water resources never ends.
GOVERNOR’S WATER COUNCIL: With DCP in place to minimize the impact of a declining Colorado River system, the State began to address internal water issues and AMWUA has been actively engaged in these efforts. The Governor established his Water Council to focus on water augmentation, innovation, and conservation efforts in Arizona. The Governor’s Water Council has set up committees to dive into issues such as desalination of brackish water, how to augment new water supplies, how to address groundwater issues in rural Arizona, and how the State would continue to manage groundwater in Central and Southern Arizona after 2025. AMWUA and other stakeholders from across the State sit on the Governor’s Water Council, while AMWUA is actively participating on the Council committees including the following:
Post-2025 AMAs Committee
This Committee of the Governor’s Water Council is identifying how to improve water management within the Active Management Areas (AMAs) in Phoenix, Tucson, Pinal, Prescott and Santa Cruz AMAs. While they have respective plans and policies for managing water in these primary population regions, the year 2025 is significant because the 1980 Groundwater Management Code is silent about how to continue to manage water in the AMAs beyond 2025. This Committee was tasked with identifying potential strategies to ensure sound water management continues after 2025. I am pleased to be working with this group and serving as one of the Committee co-chairs.
VETTING FORUM 4 WATER: This fall, AMWUA and the Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona collectively initiated the Vetting Forum 4 Water. This was created to allow Legislators and water stakeholders to have a platform to discuss proposed water legislation before the legislative session starts in January. During these discussions, stakeholders are encouraged to share initial feedback and suggestions for finding solutions to current issues and challenges. The Vetting Forum 4 Water has been a positive step forward for evaluating legislative concepts early in the process rather than in the heated throes of an active legislative session.
COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH: This past year AMWUA better refined and expanded its communication focus and efforts to continue to communicate effectively about water. With the challenges of a possible shortage on the Colorado River, we created the ‘Colorado River Shortage – Regional Awareness Campaign’ not only for AMWUA cities but regional partners and surrounding communities. This would allow us to collectively provide consistent and well-coordinated regional messaging since any impact on the Colorado River would affect us all. Also, the regional awareness campaign provided an opportunity to educate and inform community members and leaders on the facts surrounding a possible shortage on the Colorado River, which would help prevent any misconceptions. This collective effort once again highlighted the collaboration and partnership among the AMWUA cities as well as with regional agencies, stakeholders and surrounding communities.
This year, we also reached the milestone of our 300th weekly blog – which was created in 2014 to take the mystery out of complex water issues and highlight what it takes to deliver water to our faucets.
CONSERVATION AND EFFICIENCY: For over 35 years, AMWUA has overseen a comprehensive regional conservation program that leads the way in demand management and implemented programs to help meet long-term water management goals. AMWUA has built shared conservation resources and programs for its members and regional partners that are available to residents, businesses and landscape professionals. This effort continued this past year:
AMWUA oversaw the creation of a new website to support the Smartscape Program, a comprehensive, research-based training program that instructs landscape and irrigation professionals on the fundamentals of design, installation, and maintenance of sustainable, desert-adapted landscapes and irrigation systems. Smartscape also helps residents understand how important it is to hire the right person to help design, install, and maintain a landscape as well as ensure irrigation systems are running efficiently. The new website is efficient, user-friendly and mobile-adapted. It lets landscape professionals know about upcoming Smartscape training in both Maricopa and Pima Counties as well as promotes the value of training and certification. For residents and businesses, the website details the value of hiring trained, certified landscape and irrigation professionals, while highlighting Smartscape graduates by enabling consumers to search for and contact those trained professionals available for hire.
Plants for the Arizona Desert Website
This was another major website AMWUA launched this year and it is a tremendous interactive resource for homeowners, businesses and anyone looking for a little extra desert-adapted flower power to create perfect landscapes best suited to our arid climate. The new Plants for the Arizona Desert website, an extension of the popular booklet Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert, is mobile-adapted, easy to navigate, and visually appealing as it highlights over 200 desert friendly plants through high-quality photos in multiple views, which makes planning landscapes that much easier. The new website was a multi-year project as ensuring all plant photos were updated and available in the highest resolution possible was a priority. The completion of this labor of love project was much celebrated and its value is already apparent.
As we say goodbye to 2019 and conclude our half-century milestone, we look forward to the next 50 years when AMWUA will remain dedicated to ensuring our members’ water supplies are protected and enhanced with wise water policy and management. We will continue to speak with a unified voice as we collaborate with the Legislature and other water stakeholders to ensure laws and regulations sustain our water resources and provide the foundation for our economy. After all, it is why AMWUA exists.
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