Sep 23 2019Share

Water Sustainability Key to Moving Arizona Forward

By Warren Tenney

It was a celebration of statewide sustainability as Arizona Forward held their Annual Environmental Excellence Awards this past weekend highlighting exemplary projects that have directly impacted the environment, city resilience or sustainability within the State. There was no doubt that a common theme swept the stage – the importance of water.

While many accomplishments and projects in water were highlighted, it was also a great reminder of the significance of sustainable water supplies, especially for those of us living here in the desert. Over the course of the evening many statements reiterated what we already know – when it comes to water, our work is never done. We must continually focus on planning and investing in our water resources and infrastructure while using innovation and technology to ensure sustainability.

With over 650 people in attendance at the Arizona Biltmore Resort, we collectively celebrated Arizona’s future and those who have made a difference in safeguarding our great State. Among those groups who were highlighted for their efforts and dedication was Scottsdale Water, who received the Champion Award for Civic Sustainability. Their innovation and efforts in water management have long been recognized, and their dedication to achieving water sustainability through stewardship, innovation and people continues to be their vision, now and into the future. The AMWUA cities and other municipalities lead with a long-term vision for sustaining their communities and Arizona.  Many municipal accomplishments were recognized for their environmental impact through the evening including the City of Mesa who received the Waste Reduction Award Award for their Household Hazardous Waste Materials Facility, while the City of Tempe was a finalist in the same category highlighting their SMART Program.

Other accomplishments highlighted that evening included the Managed Aquifer Recharge MAR 5 & Gila River Interpretive Trail project, which was awarded not only the Crescordia Award in the Site Development and Landscape category, but they also received the President’s Award - the evening’s highest honor. This project allows the Gila River Indian Community to use its allocation of Colorado River water delivered by the Central Arizona Project (CAP) to restore a portion of the Gila River, support a riparian habitat, create an interpretive trail for educational and cultural purposes and at the same time recharge the groundwater aquifer.

When celebrating accomplishments in water over the course of the past year, there is one no more historic than the establishment and implementation of the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). Understanding the impact this agreement has on the future of Arizona is precisely why the Governor’s Award was presented to Tom Buschatzke (ADWR) and Ted Cooke (CAP), co-chairs for the DCP Steering Committee. In acceptance they noted that while DCP is indeed a historic accomplishment, we must continue to focus on what is next, something we all appreciate, understand and acknowledge – the work must continue to make living in the desert sustainable through collective action.

While AMWUA was honored to be considered for an award for our 50 years of collaborative work with our ten member municipalities and the State’s water community, we were even more pleased to see the intense focus on our water future – something that drives AMWUA each and every day.  We cannot stop planning or investing in our water supplies and infrastructure.  Collaboration and innovation are vital to protecting our water, and wise water management must be a priority now and for future generations. As we move into our next 50 years, we know that smart water policy will always keep the glass full.  That is why we need to be engaged on all levels so we can continue to implement solutions to water issues and prepare for all the challenges that lay ahead. This is how we will continue to collectively move Arizona forward.

For 50 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

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2019 Arizona Forward Environmental Excellence Awards

Governor’s Award for Arizona’s Future: Drought Contingency Plan (Tom Butchatzke and Ted Cooke)

Civic Buildings & Structures: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Justice Center

Historic Preservation Buildings & Structures: Band Building Steele Indian School Park (City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation)

Commercial & Institutional Buildings & Structures: The Bob and Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls and Women at Camp South Mountain

Site Development & Landscape: MAR 5 & Gila River Interpretive Trail  and Lower Salt River Riparian Restoration Project

Healthy Communities, Public Policy & Plans: Sustainable Action Plan for County Operations (Pima County)

Innovation Through Technology: Arizona Water Watch (ADEQ)

Art in Public Places: 7th Avenue Streetscape

Environmental Education & Communication: 2019 Ten Across Water Summit

Civic Sustainability Champion Award: Scottsdale Water

Private Sector Sustainability Champion Award: Restoring Water in the Desert (Intel Corporation)

Waste Reduction Award: City of Mesa Household Hazardous Materials Facility

Arizona Forward 50th Anniversary Recognition Award: Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona

President’s Award: MAR 5 & Gila River Interpretive Trail

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