Annual water conservation conference held at University of Arizona, experts share policies to increase water security

Published: Jul. 12, 2023 at 6:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Policy and conservation experts gathered at the University of Arizona for the Water Resource Research Center’s annual conference, called “What can we do? Solutions to Arizona’s Water Challenges.”

Water sources like the Colorado River, which provides drinking water to tens of millions of people and irrigation to millions of acres of farmland, have decreased by over 30% in recent years, making conservation more pressing.

Attendees and experts from southern Arizona to California gathered to discuss water conservation and issues that come with it. Issues like information gaps in staffing capacity in some water markets make water exchange partnerships challenging.

Richael Young, a senior economist, presented the idea of clearinghouses that help record and scale the water being exchanged between parties.

“The idea behind a clearinghouse,” Young says, “is that it can help with addressing some of those issues, making more accessible, especially to cities that may not have the same kind of resources that cities like Phoenix or Tucson have.”

One example of a current water exchange is the exchange between Phoenix and Tucson, where each city exchanges water based on need and other factors.

But while some areas have a plan for water in place, others are struggling to reach a healthy and viable water level.

Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community says his community has been in a drought for over 1200 years due to over-allocation of water sources and climate change, and it is now reaching dangerously low water levels.

Conferences like these, he says, are crucial.

“For the community, this is who we are, as the O’odham and Piipaash people. This is in our blood, being water protectors and being good stewards of the water,” said Gov. Lewis.

“We’re in very critical times and it takes a cooperative and respectful approach to chart our path, both here in Arizona and also throughout the basin.”

The water conference comes as the University of Arizona and the Universities of Southern California and Nevada received million-dollar grants for the Consortium of Potable Water Reuse.

The three schools will focus on how to reuse water that may otherwise have gone to waste.

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