Local Experts Talk Future of Water Management & Supply

By Caroline Yu | Scottsdale Independent

Scottsdale, like other recipients of water from the Colorado River, continues to analyze its water resources for the future as water becomes scarce with increasing awareness of shortages.

In fostering the conversation about water management throughout the state, Scottsdale Mayor David D. Ortega and city council members hosted a discussion panel on Sept. 22 with regional water experts.

On the panel were:

  • Brian Biesemeyer, Scottsdale Water’s executive director
  • Ron Klawitter, senior principal in the Salt River Project’s water supply department
  • Ken Seasholes, the Central Arizona Project’s manager of resource planning and analysis
  • Warren Tenney, executive director of Arizona Municipal Water Users Association

Scottsdale Water’s water policy manager Gretchen Baumgardner led the discussion.

At the start of the event, Mayor Ortega welcomed guests, including notable attendees like state Rep. John Kavanagh who has previously expressed support for better water management.

Ortega also spoke of the ever-present importance water holds in Scottsdale residents’ lives, saying clean water “propels our daily life.”

“As we manage and invest in water, it’s how we will navigate our destiny,” Ortega said. “It took foresight to manage scarce water resources to nourish Arizona.”

Like other cities, he continued, the drought impacting the Colorado River has severely challenged the city at every level, creating complex issues for city and state officials.

Following a word from Vice Mayor Tom Durham, the panel discussion began with brief introductions from the experts. All of the panelists have extensive experience in water management, from working directly on policy to researching the effects of drought and climate change.

Launching the discussion, Baumgardner asked the panel about what water officials should be looking at for the coming years, given that Arizona has a rich history of managing water through the 100-year-old Colorado River Compact as well as the more recent Groundwater Management Act.

While those means established a sturdy foundation for the way Arizona cities manage and distribute water today, there hasn’t been a lot done since then, Seasholes answered.

He explained that Arizona shares its water supply from the Colorado River with the other lower basin members of Nevada, California and the Republic of Mexico. Not counting the upper basin supply, what’s available to the lower basin has been under stress and with the shortage, the stresses are twofold.

“It’s the challenge before all of us here and a larger group of folks that work on these issues, and it’s all about how to equitably share and manage smaller supplies than we have had in the past,” Seasholes said.

Other panelists agreed, adding that to prepare for these “unprecedented times,” water agencies need to build upon those foundational bodies that dictate the way water is shared.

However, Klawitter noted that with the extensive infrastructure that the state has built, he doesn’t feel stressed by the reliability of water supplies at CAP.

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