Fostering collaboration to address water sustainability
ASU, Western city mayors join together at summit
Cities in the United States' Western region face a higher demand for water as populations grow and drought diminishes supply. That’s why the mayors of several Western cities recently agreed to work together on water sustainability and climate-change adaptation.
“As they like to say, mayors have to get stuff done. They are problem solvers with very immediate constituencies,” said Dave White, director of Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City, a research unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.
Participants in the inaugural water summit include ASU's Dave White; Aurora, Colorado, Mayor Steve Hogan; Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton; Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Mesa Mayor John Giles (not pictured).Photo courtesy City of Phoenix
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and ASU professor Dave White helped convene mayors from Western states for a summit on water resources.Photo courtesy City of Phoenix
Mayors exchanged ideas and innovative ways to promote water sustainability in the Western-states region.Photo courtesy City of Phoenix
The City of Phoenix has a couple of innovative programs designed to conserve water. One is a water-banking agreement with the City of Tucson. Both cities receive water from the Colorado River via the Central Arizona Project canal system. The agreement allows Phoenix to send unused Colorado River water to Tucson where it is banked in aquifers. If Phoenix needs the water, Tucson can direct equivalent amounts of its Colorado River water to Phoenix.
“It is likely going to save the City of Phoenix millions in not-built infrastructure,” White said.
Phoenix is also one of several cities participating with the Bureau of Reclamation in the Colorado River Resiliency Fund. The city pays $5.5 million a year into the fund. The money is used to help large businesses and growers improve water efficiency. The water that is saved is stored in aquifers and allows Phoenix to use that water if its share of Colorado River water is later reduced due to drought.
At their meeting in Washington, D.C., mayors talked about the role Improvements in information technology will play in helping conserve water. White compares it to the energy sector where instant data on usage allows suppliers and consumers to make better decisions.
Another area of concern for mayors is educating the next generation of leaders in government, industry and environmental policy. Current leaders have spent years learning about water delivery, use and conservation. Transferring that knowledge to new leaders is crucial for successful water management.
“The idea of thinking about providing a secure, sustainable water supply for future generations is this notion of a public good that really crosses sectors — public, private, nonprofit — and requires us to train leaders in all of them,” White said.
Both White and Stanton plan to build on the initial meeting. In addition to facilitating idea sharing, the group will evaluate a series of principles developed by Decision Center for a Desert City, with the goal of refining and ultimately moving toward a consensus for implementation.