Vetting Forum Creates Platform for Conversations and Collaboration
By Warren Tenney
The 2021 legislative session is set to begin next month, when State Legislators will take hundreds of bills into consideration to address Statewide priorities such as the COVID-19 pandemic, economic stimulus, education, transportation, and other topics that impact Arizona, including water.
When it comes to water, legislation can often be complicated and contentious, requiring significant time to understand the various technicalities and stakeholder perspectives. Finding this time can be very difficult for lawmakers during an active legislative session when they are under pressure to deal with a wide array of priorities in only a few short months. A more preferable and effective way to reach successful water legislation is for stakeholders and Legislators to engage before starting a legislative session so questions can be answered and details hammered out.
To accomplish this, AMWUA and the Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona initiated and jointly facilitate the Vetting Forum 4 Water. The forum is an open platform to evaluate water-related legislation among decision-makers and water stakeholders. The roundtable format allows all parties to openly discuss water-related issues they would like to see addressed in the upcoming legislative session.
The Vetting Forum 4 Water, which held its inaugural meeting in 2019 and has continued this fall, was created to be inclusive and open to all. Stakeholders are encouraged to bring forward upcoming legislative proposals for discussion, input, and feedback at every meeting. The goal is not to reach a consensus but rather to raise questions, discuss concerns, and resolve known issues. Proper vetting of any proposed bill only works if well-rounded discussions take place. That improved awareness and understanding of water issues increase the likelihood of successful legislation during the session.
We know water is of Statewide significance, and it is not just a rural or urban issue, but an Arizona issue. What happens in one part of the State can have a ripple effect from border to border. Having decision-makers who understand the importance of protecting our water supplies is vital to our State. This is embodied in the partnership between AMWUA and the Agribusiness & Water Council to jointly facilitate the Vetting Forum for Water. Our two organizations don’t always agree on the water issues precisely the same way. Still, we know that it is crucial to openly share water legislation with all stakeholders who may be impacted. Both organizations understand the importance and significance of collaboration regarding such a valuable resource, and so do all the stakeholders who have participated. This fall’s monthly forums have seen a virtual attendance of up to 150 people since kicking off in October, highlighting these discussions’ importance.
Moving forward, these critical conversations, collaboration, and cooperation among stakeholders from across Arizona will continue with another Vetting Forum 4 Water scheduled for January and leading into a new legislative session. Through these efforts to vet, we hope that water legislation will be better positioned to ensure our State’s long-term sustainability and economic prosperity.
For over 50 years, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has helped protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe, and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more information, visit www.amwua.org.
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