As the River Runs Dry: The Southwest’s water crisis

Arizona and the Southwest seek a balance of growth and water conservation as supply continues to decline.

By Brandon Loomis and Mark Henle, The Republic | azcentral.com

lmarquez_LakePowell_LowWaterLevel_052914_296LAS VEGAS – The patroller stopped his water district truck and grabbed his camcorder.

“Here we go,” he said, sliding from the cab and pointing his lens at the fine spray of water and rainbow rising from pop-up sprinklers on the lawn of a low-slung ranch home.

“Thursday,” he spoke, recording the day as evidence. No watering allowed on Thursdays.

Welcome to the future, where every drop of Colorado River water is guarded and squeezed. Only here, in the city that gets 90 percent of its water from the fickle and fading river, the future is now.

The vast and highly urbanized Southwest, built on the promise of a bountiful river propped up by monumental dams, is up against its limits. Already tapped beyond its supply, the river is now threatened by a warming climate that shrinks its alpine source.

To support fast-growing urban populations in a time of dwindling supply, the Southwest is due for rapid and revolutionary changes.

A region that uses two-thirds of its water outdoors, and mostly for agriculture, will have to find ways of sharing and boosting efficiency — a shift that many experts believe will mean city dwellers paying to upgrade rural irrigation systems.

Cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas, which have reduced their per-person water usage through better landscaping and appliances, will have to do better. They lag behind Los Angeles, whose growing population, by necessity, uses no more water than it did 40 years ago.

Water suppliers from Denver to San Diego will spend billions of dollars to squeeze more out of each drop, and to clean and use wastewater and salt water. It means a future of higher water bills, further promoting conservation.

Read the entire article at azcentral.com.

NASPAA Article on Training Administrators Through Simulations

From Skittles to Governance: How Simulations can Train the Next Generation of Administrators

in Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration or NASPAA.

Authors

Erik Johnston, Center for Policy Informatics, Arizona State University
Dara Wald, Center for Policy Informatics and Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University

For the past six years we have worked with the NSF-supported Decision Center for a Desert City at Arizona State University to create educational experiences using the WaterSim Platform. This model, based on water demand and supply in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, was developed to help stakeholders deliberate on and explore the consequences of urban water planning decisions in central Arizona. The user-interface allows participants to adjust various parameters—population growth, climate change, agricultural water use, urban development, and residential water use—and receive instant feedback on their decisions.

CPI_IMG_9270_296We believe that only through experiencing the realities of complexity, uncertainty and human behavior, can modern public administration challenges be understood.

In teaching game theory to students in the School of Public Affairs, we describe the concepts of “mutual best responses” and “dominant strategies,” but it is only when the students participate in a 1-2 hour game theory tournament, does the nuance of strategic interaction hit home.

During the 20-30 rounds of games—where Skittles are the currency—students play in pairs, in groups, single rounds and repeated interactions, and in cooperative and not-so-cooperative arrangements. In response to game play, the most common phrase we hear is, “That is not how they were supposed to behave.” Within minutes it becomes clear that, as in real-life public administration challenges, knowledge is useful, but the essential component is experience, particularly multiple experiences with varying outcomes. However, there are limits to the use of Skittles.

To address more sophisticated challenges, we have developed an interactive, collaborative simulation to provide an environment for students to experience the challenges of modern public administration, including complex systems that illustrate the interplay of policy, infrastructure, climate uncertainty, and multiple interdependent stakeholders.

Read the entire article at NASPAA.

Planning for Demand Uncertainty in Integrated Water Resource Management

Author

Ray Quay

Journal

Journal at American Water Works Association 107:2, Volume 107, Number 2, February 2015, ISSN 2164-4535.

Because water supply and demand face equally uncertain futures, a strategy that considers their relationship and anticipates a range of possible future scenarios for these two fundamental aspects of water use might be the wisest approach for water resource managers.

Abstract

RayQuay_Sept2012_reducedUncertainty has been a driving factor in water resource planning for several decades, particularly in arid regions and in those with a high degree of interannual variability in precipitation.

In the last few decades, anticipatory governance has emerged as an approach for planning under conditions of high uncertainty.

In shifting from a predict-and-plan approach, water resource managers are anticipating a wide range of futures, developing response strategies, and adapting to anticipated changes as needed.

The uncertainty of water supply has been the primary focus of such efforts primarily because of the potential for long-term drought and climate change.

Until recently, water-demand estimating and forecasting have been viewed with greater certainty than water supply, with a focus on revenue projections, infrastructure capacity planning, and how demand can be reduced in the long term and quickly during drought.

However, water-demand estimating and forecasting have high levels of uncertainty, particularly in the longer time frame, and thus can also benefit from anticipatory governance. Integrated water resource planning is an approach that brings the uncertainty of water demand and supply into a common anticipatory governance framework.

Read and download the entire article at American Water Works Association.

Vivoni Awarded Leopold Leadership Fellowship

Congratulations to DCDC researcher, Enrique Vivoni, who was awarded a Leopold Leadership Fellowship!

Vivoni2010_296Arizona State University hydrologist Enrique Vivoni has been awarded a Leopold Leadership Fellowship –– a prominent North American program focused on communicating environmental science to a wide audience.

He becomes one of 20 Leopold Leadership Fellows for 2015 selected for their outstanding scientific qualifications, demonstrated leadership ability, and strong interest in sharing their knowledge beyond traditional academic audiences.

The Fellows will receive two weeks of intensive communication and leadership training in how to deliver information about their research to journalists, policymakers, business leaders and the public.

Vivoni is an associate professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He is internationally recognized in the fields of distributed hydrologic modeling, ecohydrology of semi-arid regions, North American monsoon studies and integration of engineering tools for advancing hydrologic science.

Water in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico is a contentious issue that traverses disciplinary boundaries. Vivoni’s research activities focus on the intersection of hydrology and its allied disciplines – ecology, meteorology and geomorphology – for improving understanding of water resources in this region.

A hallmark of his research achievements has been the collaborative studies of the shared water resources between the U.S. and Mexico.

“I am honored to be chosen as a Leopold Fellow and I look forward to serving as a focal point for water resources issues in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico,” Vivoni said. “The leadership skills developed through the Leopold Leadership program will be useful for addressing societal needs related to water resources sustainability.”

The Leopold Leadership Program, based at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment, is a competitive fellowship for outstanding academic environmental scientists who are actively engaged in outreach to decision-makers and the public about their work. Each year, the program selects up to 20 midcareer academic environmental scientists as fellows.

The program was founded in 1998 to fill a critical gap in environmental decision-making: providing the best scientific knowledge to government, nonprofit and business leaders, and the public, to further the development of sustainable policies and practices.

The list of 2015 Fellows is below, and more information about the program is available at Leopold Leadership.

Written by Nicole Cassis

Media Contacts
Nicole Cassis
602-710-7169
School of Earth and Space Exploration

Joe Kullman
480-965-8122
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Sarah Porter Named Director of Kyl Center for Water Policy

January 7, 2015

Sarah Porter named inaugural director of Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute

Following a national search, natural resource expert and Audubon leader Sarah Porter has been named the inaugural director of the new Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute.

“I am so excited to join the new center and help it succeed in finding collaborative solutions to address our state’s water challenges,” said Porter, who had been with the Audubon Arizona since 2006, including as executive director since 2010.

She will begin her new job at Morrison Institute for Public Policy on Jan. 20.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with having Sarah take charge of the Kyl Center as Arizona seeks new and innovative ways and strategies to settle water claims, develop sound water policy through consensus and better educate the general public about water resources and choices,” said Thom Reilly, director of Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University.

Porter has a broad understanding of both Arizona and regional water issues, having directed Audubon’s Western Rivers project, a multi-state initiative to raise awareness of the challenges to Colorado River sustainability, as well as protecting and restoring flows for critical habitats and communities.

“It’s all about securing Arizona’s water future through collective and inclusive input from a diverse roster of agency leaders, elected officials, policy makers and stakeholders. Sarah understands that,” Reilly said, noting Porter’s nonpartisan and collaborative successful initiatives at Audubon.

The Kyl Center, named after retired U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl in recognition of his statesmanship and continued leadership on water issues, was officially launched in November after a $1 million gift from the Morrison family. The Kyl Center is housed at Morrison Institute, which is part of the ASU College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Kyl, who is actively involved in the center, including the selection process for the director post, said he was pleased by the choice of Porter.

“I was very impressed by the quality of all the candidates who expressed interest in the position, and particularly impressed by Sarah’s credentials, energy and dedication to collaboration – all of which are needed in making the center the success we all want and need it to be,” Kyl said.

Morrison Institute last month announced the addition of two senior research fellows to help with the research component of the Kyl Center for Water Policy: Kathleen Ferris, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association; and Rhett B. Larson, an associate professor of law in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. Both are attorneys.

Porter also is an attorney, having graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree and obtaining her juris doctor from Arizona State University (ranking third in her class). She clerked for federal appellate Judge William Canby and was a litigator for Brown & Bain; Coppersmith Gordon Schermer Owens & Nelson, PLC; and Osborn Maledon PA.

She said she left her law career in 2006 for Audubon because she wanted to contribute to a collaborative effort to address Arizona’s natural resource challenges. She will now dedicate that focus to the Kyl Center.

Arizona Water Challenge

Check out recent interviews with DCDC researchers Dave White and Ray Quay.

November 30, 2014

Phoenix Channel 12 News, Sunday Square Off with Brahm Resnick discusses Arizona’s water future with his panel including DCDC director, Dave White, policy analyst Jocelyn Gibbon, and 12 News’ Dr. Matt Pace.
Arizona Water Supply: How Worried Should You Be?
Amid a depleted water supply and a historic drought, will Arizona run short of water?

Phoenix Channel 12 News, Sunday Square Off with Brahm Resnick discusses Arizona’s water future with his panel including DCDC director, Dave White, policy analyst Jocelyn Gibbon, and 12 News’ Dr. Matt Pace.
Can Arizona Create Water: Why big ideas might not work
The water forecasters say Arizona’s water supply will run short of demand in the near future. The ‘Sunday Square Off’ panel debates whether the big ideas to create more water would really work.

Phoenix Channel 12 News, Sunday Square Off with Brahm Resnick discusses Arizona’s water future with his panel including DCDC director, Dave White, policy analyst Jocelyn Gibbon, and 12 News’ Dr. Matt Pace.
Arizona Water Challenge: Myths, reality of how to conserve.
The Sunday Square Off panel debate the myths and reality of how to conserve water in an era when supply won’t meet future demand.
SundaySquareOff_Nov30_2014
Phoenix Channel 12 News, Sunday Square Off with Brahm Resnick interviews former Arizona senator, Jon Kyl
Kyl on AZ water challenge: Get to work now
Resnick and Kyl discuss how the State must act now to ensure a sufficient water supply in the future.

November 20,2014

Steve Goldstein interviews Ray Quay on KJZZ.
The Role of Irrigation in Arizona
This week, Phoenix has been the host city for the Water Resource and Irrigation Conference. Irrigation has been a method for bringing water to Valley homes for decades.

Parched Cities Share Water in West

October 30, 2014 Parched Cities Share Water in the West by Jim Carlton of the Wall Street Journal. University access or subscription required.

A recent agreement by this city and Tucson, Ariz., highlights a growing trend in the drought-plagued Southwest: water agencies sharing resources to stretch limited supplies rather than going it alone.

Phoenix, which gets more water than it can store from the Colorado River, has agreed to send some of its surplus to Tucson, which needs it to lower pumping costs. In return, Tucson will give up part of its share of Colorado River water to Phoenix when needed. The deal finalized in early October comes despite long-standing rivalries between Arizona’s two largest cities.

“Any rivalry between Phoenix and Tucson is so 10 years ago,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said in an interview.

CAP_RiparianPreserve1Water transfers between agencies have been picking up across the West in the wake of a drought that has ravaged the region for much of the past 15 years. During Texas’ severe drought in 2011, more than 1.7 million acre feet of water were transferred between users, compared with an average of 150,000 annually between 2007 and 2009, according to a 2012 report by the Western Governors Association and Western States Water Council. An acre foot is 326,000 gallons, or about the amount of water used by a family of four in a year.

In August, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California agreed to send treated water to Sierra Madre, Calif., as part of a deal with the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District to ease that city’s water shortage. Metropolitan, based in Los Angeles, will get repaid double what it sent in untreated water, as well as the right to buy water from the smaller agency though 2035.

“This is ushering in an era of cooperation where, typically in the past, each player has watched out and protected its own rights,” said Dave White, co-director of the Decision Center for a Desert City at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.

Read the entire article at the Wall Street Journal. University access or subscription required.

See below for additional interviews regarding this agreement.

October 21, 2014

“Sustainability: Phoenix-Tucson Water Agreement.” Dave White interview on Arizona Horizon.
Program Description: Phoenix and Tucson have entered an agreement for Phoenix to store its excess Colorado River water in Tucson. The agreement is of mutual benefit to both cities. Arizona State University associate professor Dave White, who heads the Decision Center for a Desert City and studies water management decisions, will discuss the agreement.
Watch the Arizona Horizon interview with Dave White

October 3, 2014

Listen to DCDC director Dave White discuss the new water agreement between Phoenix and Tucson which could lead to similar arrangements between other Western cities, in response to drought conditions. Uncommon collaborations will be vital in the future.

Listen to Dave’s comments on KJZZ.

The Risks of Cheap Water

October 14, 2014 by Eduardo Porter of The New York Times.

This summer, California’s water authority declared that wasting water — hosing a sidewalk, for example — was a crime. Next door, in Nevada, Las Vegas has paid out $200 million over the last decade for homes and businesses to pull out their lawns.

DenverWater_2011CampaignIt will get worse. As climate change and population growth further stress the water supply from the drought-plagued West to the seemingly bottomless Great Lakes, states and municipalities are likely to impose increasingly draconian restrictions on water use.

Such efforts may be more effective than simply exhorting people to conserve. In August, for example, cities and towns in California consumed much less water — 27 billion gallons less —than in August last year.

But the proliferation of limits on water use will not solve the problem because regulations do nothing to address the main driver of the nation’s wanton consumption of water: its price.

“Most water problems are readily addressed with innovation,” said David G. Victor of the University of California, San Diego. “Getting the water price right to signal scarcity is crucially important.”

The signals today are way off. Water is far too cheap across most American cities and towns. But what’s worse is the way the United States quenches the thirst of farmers, who account for 80 percent of the nation’s water consumption and for whom water costs virtually nothing.

Adding to the challenges are the obstacles placed in the way of water trading. “Markets are essential to ensuring that water, when it’s scarce, can go to the most valuable uses,” said Barton H. Thompson, an expert on environmental resources at Stanford Law School. Without them, “the allocation of water is certainly arbitrary.”

Read the entire article at The New York Times.

Innovative Solutions for a Shrinking Water Supply

By Mariana Dale via The Republic | AZcentral.com on September 28, 2014

Water scarcity is one of Arizona’s most serious, ever-present problems.

Which is why students, researchers, professionals and creative thinkers are ­being challenged to raise awareness for an issue that the experts believe needs to be addressed now.

A $100,000 prize awaits the group that comes up with the most innovative ­campaign to push water scarcity into the forefront of public ­conversation.

lmarquez_LakePowell_LowWaterLevel_052914_500The Water Consciousness Challenge is the first phase of the New Arizona Prize offered by the Arizona Community Foundation in collaboration with The Arizona Republic and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy. Underwriting for the program comes from the Tashman Fund and the Lodestar Foundation.

The next phase of the competition will challenge entrepreneurs to create business-based solutions and products to reduce water use.

“The Valley has enjoyed water affluence for a long time because we had really great planning,” said Megan Brownell, chief business development and brand officer at the Arizona Community Foundation, a Phoenix-based philanthropic organization. “It’s now time to act so there won’t be a conflict in 20 to 30 years.”

The competition wants to create a public-service campaign that raises awareness about the challenges facing Arizona’s long-term water supply so residents will feel an urgency to start working on them now.

If Arizonans don’t change how they consume water and start brainstorming new solutions for dwindling supplies, shortages won’t be a choice, they will be an unavoidable reality. Planning for the future of water now will help ensure there is enough water for future generations, Brownell said.

The message isn’t new; it has been taught with puppets, posters, television spots, brochures and landscape-design classes for years.

But experts, researchers and industry workers agree that as long as taps gush clear,drinkable water, it’s hard to keep water scarcity part of public conversation.

“One challenge is getting people to take ownership of their decisions and how they contribute to the demand side of the equation,” said Dave White, co-director of Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City, which studies water use and sustainability.

Continue reading at The Republic | AZcentral.com.

Dave White Lecture at Global Institute for Water Security

Dave White was invited to speak as a distinguished lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan’s Breakthroughs in Water Security Research: The Global Institute for Water Security Distinguished Lecture Series on Wednesday, September 24, 2014.

Date: Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Time: 3:00pm in Arizona
Location: Neatby-Timlin Theatre, Arts 241, University of Saskatchewan
View the lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAwyv3KhAjQ

Lecture Title

Envisioning the future of water governance: Linking decision-maker preferences, simulation modelling and scenario analysis to inform sustainability transitions.”

Talk Abstract

DLSWhite Sept 24_225

The coupled effects of global climate change and population dynamics on water systems are widely considered to be among the greatest urban sustainability challenges facing humanity in the Anthropocene. Climate change impacts, including rising temperatures, changes in the amount and timing of local precipitation, and increased variability will very likely reduce renewable surface and groundwater supplies and diminish raw water quality, leading to widespread but uneven risks. Semiarid and arid regions will be particularly vulnerable. Meanwhile, the world’s urban population is projected to double in the next generation and much of this urban growth will occur in arid or semiarid environments. Climate impacts will amplify existing vulnerabilities in water-scare urban regions associated with inherent variability, cyclical drought, and extreme heat. Furthermore, the projected biophysical impacts of climate change are conditioned by and interact with land use changes, population dynamics, economic development, and water management decisions. Indeed, the non-climatic stressors on water resources may outweigh the climate impacts for some regions. Taken together, these interrelated pressures pose unprecedented challenges for urban sustainability. To address these challenges, there are growing number of scholars, policy-makers, and interest groups calling for transformational solutions to enable a transition towards urban water sustainability. An essential task for such transitions is to envision a sustainable future for water governance.

He will highlight recent research that utilizes a participatory, mixed-method approach, including survey questionnaire, scenario analysis, and simulation modeling, to construct distinct, coherent, plausible, and desirable governance scenarios of the Phoenix, Arizona USA region in 2030. Four scenarios provide stakeholders and policy makers with distinct options for future water governance regimes, while the approach integrates normative values and preferences with dynamic models to inform sustainable policy making. The first scenario, Technical Management for Megapolitan Development, based on the stakeholder survey, describes a future in which water experts negotiate and acquire more water so Phoenix can continue to grow. The second scenario, Citizen Councils Pursue Comprehensive Sustainability, was selected using the sustainability appraisal. This scenario describes a future where watershed-like councils use policy instruments to reduce water use as part of a comprehensive approach to sustainability that includes integrated policy making for water, energy, food, and urban planning. Experts Manage Limited Water for Unlimited Growth is the third scenario, selected using plausibility indications, and describes a future where water experts struggle to provide for a growing population without restricting water use or acquiring new water sources. Water governance reflects a classic “muddling through” approach. The final scenario, Collaborative Governance Prioritizes Local Water Security, selected using the water security governance analysis, is a future in which water is very central to decision making. In this scenario, committees of water managers, scientists and citizens collaborate to secure water and reduce consumption to ensure the long-term viability of the metropolitan region.

Each of the four scenarios was input into WaterSim 5.0 to determine their systemic impacts under different climate scenarios. The suite of models resulted in 270 separate model runs for the 75 year simulation period for each of the 33 water utilities and the four constructed synthetic scenarios plus one base scenario.

Our approach then allows for normative scenarios to interface with a dynamic simulation model, which during stakeholder engagement activities can provide feedback to participants on the impacts of their priorities, particularly on the availability of surface and groundwater for future generations and the distribution of burdens and benefits of water and water governance. Stakeholders can then modify or dictate preconditions for their priorities and, if necessary, select new scenarios. This type of iteration and feedback with differing levels of stakeholder involvement is critical in transdisciplinary research generally and for participatory scenarios that inform transitions in particular.

The scenarios in this study can be considered boundary objects, which allow for knowledge exchange between different actors related to their opinions, values, and preferences regarding all or parts of the water system. In this capacity, the scenarios present different water governance regimes with different power arrangements in a way that is comprehensible to broad audiences. For the Phoenix region, the scenarios can also facilitate conversations with other regions about water governance. Bounding the governance regime to the Phoenix region is a necessity of the scenario construction process that does not necessarily reflect the governance or hydrological reality. In the future, Phoenix will be negotiating for water with other state and regional actors, particularly those with rights to the Colorado River. By selecting a scenario to guide transition activities, Phoenix will have a boundary object with which to communicate its priorities to its partners on the Colorado River. Such efforts could contribute to further coordination of sustainable water governance across the Southwest.