Over the last several years the Verde River Basin Partnership has been monitoring an ever increasing amount of studies and reports that revolve around the same issue.
The Southwestern United States, Arizona and the Verde River Basin are in need of additional water supplies and better water management if we are to sustain our economy and preserve our rivers and streams for future generations.
The Partnership's Technical Advisory Group and Educational Outreach Committee have been informing our region's citizens about water resource issues we are currently facing and into the future.
Now "Another Shoe Has Dropped." The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) has released a strategic vision to meet future challenges to Arizona's water supply issues. The ADWR report "Arizona's Next Century: A Strategic Vision For Water Supply Sustainability" (Strategic Vision) is just the first step in addressing our water resource needs. There will be many challenges and opportunities along the way.
What other shoes have already dropped?
In our immediate region the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) released: "Central Yavapai Highlands Water Resource Management Study" which clearly indicated that we currently do not have the necessary water supplies for projected growth over the next 50 years.
The recently released study: "Human Impacts on the Verde River's Streamflow, 1910 Through 2109: Applying the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Northern Arizona Regional Groundwater-Flow Model" revealed that groundwater pumping has impacted the flows of the Verde River. Areas in the Verde Valley will experience a significant lowering of the groundwater table over the next 100 years.
The BOR has released: "The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study." This significant study, completed in collaboration with the seven states that receive water from the Colorado River, has indicated that due to projected growth there will be supply shortages to those seven states that could be as high as 3.2-million acre-feet. This amount of water is more than the Colorado River currently supplies to Arizona alone.
The Arizona Water Development Commission has issued its final report which indicated our state and the Verde River Basin are in need of additional water supplies to sustain projected growth.
Five shoes have dropped. How many more shoes have to drop before we start taking our water resource needs seriously? If someone tells you we have no water issues ask them which of these studies they do not believe? These studies and reports have been compiled by some of the best water resource experts in the world and should be viewed as credible.
Due to competition for funding, prioritization for inclusion in planning and legal issues that could further impact our supplies our region needs to be at the forefront of being included in the process.
Of the soon-to-be 7 million citizens of Arizona, not counting long-term visitors and second home owners, rural Arizona's population is a little over a million. This disparity in population could have serious consequences for our region and rural Arizona if we do not have a united voice in our region and with our rural partners.
A review of the Strategic Vision states: "Over the next 20 to 100 years, Arizona will need to identify and develop an additional 900,000 to 3.2 million acre-feet of water supplies to meet its projected demands." As our population and economy have grown the additional water supply needs have only increased.
The Strategic Vision is in its early stages and has yet to become a plan. There will have to be extensive research and analysis over the coming decades in order to develop a plan for the future. There is no way around the fact that the final plan will require significant infrastructure costs and changes to current water law.
The Strategic Vision also indicates the important role for those who develop public policy. The Strategic Vision report states: "Putting this strategy together gives policy makers an opportunity to comprehensively explore what is possible, and the pros and cons of a combination of efforts, rather than addressing these issues across the state on a project-by-project basin."
The Partnership is in the process of developing a strategy to update you on the impacts and management options that will be under consideration as the Strategic Vision process moves forward.
Our Technical Advisory Group will monitor technical options as they are presented. The Partnership's Educational Outreach Committee will keep citizens aware of planning, legal issues, funding and management options as they are discussed. Our intent is for the citizens of the Verde River Basin to be aware of and knowledgeable on issues that go to the heart of their quality of life, finances, economy and preservation of the Verde River and its tributaries.
The Partnership's website vrbp.org will be continually updated as we develop Discussion Papers on the Strategic Vision and other water related issues. Please visit The Partnership's Facebook page at Facebook.com/verderiverbasinpartnership for information concerning water resources issues.
Tom O'Halleran is the chairman of the Verde River Basin Partnership.