By Tricia Gerrodette and Madeline Kiser Special to the Arizona Daily Star
Tricia Gerrodette and Madeline Kiser are members of the Sustainable Water Workgroup, a statewide coalition of 27 conservation and community organizations
(Editor’s note: Opinion pieces are published for discussions purposes only.)
The image on the computer screen shows our uncertain future.
It features a plummeting vector representing Lake Mead. This is where water for Arizona as well as for California and Nevada is stored. As the climate shifts in the Colorado River Basin in ways no model is fully capturing, the river’s flow continues to diminish and the lake lowers.
This amounts to an unprecedented shift in the U.S. West. To address it, the Central Arizona Water Conservation Board and Arizona Department of Water Resources — the two agencies largely in charge of making water policy — are, after a year of disagreement, working together to implement new rules and procedures overlaid onto decades of outdated state and federal water policy.
The new policies emerging are called the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). In addition to stabilizing Lake Mead in order to avoid a shortage declaration — which would lessen Arizona’s ability to negotiate our water future — it aims to weave new relationships in our state and in the basin among tribes, government agencies, municipal and agricultural stakeholders, environmental nonprofits and private investors; new agreements that will winnow flexibility (or “bend the curve”) into legally rigid overlapping systems of water laws that define our state and the basin.