2026 May Be Too Late: Hard Conversations About Really Complicated Issues
There is no debate – demands for water across the Colorado River Basin exceed the shrinking supply. Chronic drought, record heat, increasing winds and aridity, as well as rampant wildfires are diminishing the Basin’s overall health and resilience. The historically low levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell have invited unprecedented federal action and raise the specter of a looming energy crisis. To ensure a sustainable future, these harsh realities will require inclusive collaborations and innovative actions. We brought together a broad array of expertise and diverse perspectives from across the region to candidly discuss these complex challenges. Throughout this conference we examined potential options to advance sustainable water management, expand basin-wide conservation in every sector, and strengthen watershed resilience.
Equity in the Colorado River Basin: How to Sustainably Manage a Shrinking Resource
Simply put – demands for water in the Colorado River Basin exceed supply. Chronic drought, record heat, and rampant wildfires are already affecting the Basin’s overall health and resilience, and the historically low levels in Lakes Mead and Powell led to an unprecedented call on the river. These compounding challenges come at a time when several key components of the “Law of the River” are sunsetting in 2026. Key players are already revisiting the 2007 Interim Guidelines, Minute 323, and the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan. Relatedly, endangered fish recovery programs relevant to the region expire in 2023. Meanwhile, 48% of Tribal households in the U.S. do not have access to reliable water sources, clean drinking water, or basic sanitation. These harsh realities hasten the need to advance sustainable water management, improve watershed resilience, and ensure clean water access through collaborative decision-making. We look forward to bringing together diverse expertise from across the region to draw the roadmap to an equitable future in the Colorado River Basin.
Many members of the business community are increasingly concerned that western water scarcity is a threat to producing and selling their products, and more generally, to maintaining the healthy social and economic conditions that are needed to sustain strong economies. A variety of initiatives are now underway to address this concern, and to address water management issues both within and outside of their sphere of operations.
Mike Bernier Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, Swire Coca-Cola
Todd Reeve Chief Executive Officer,BEF/Business for Water Stewardship
Water Markets and Private Investments in Western Agriculture: A Road Forward?
Thursday, September 24th, 2020
Using market forces to shift the distribution and use of western water resources is a controversial topic. Some individuals fear that private investments in western agriculture will doom the sector, as water will inevitably flow to higher-paying uses and users in urban settings. To others, these investments allow agriculture to become more efficient and resilient, and when done correctly, can minimize any pain associated with large-scale water reallocations.
James Eklund Founder and CEO, Eklund Hanlon LLC
Peter Fleming General Counsel, Colorado River Water Conservation District
Gone are the days when funding western water needs was merely a task of gaining Congressional authorization and appropriations for new dams and reservoirs. Today, federal funds are limited, and much of what needs to happen does not involve new infrastructure. A vast toolbox of potential funding strategies are, at least theoretically, available, although many options are unproven. Many such strategies are under consideration in Colorado for implementing the State Water Plan.
Charting a Better Course for the Colorado River: Identifying the Data and Concepts to Shape the Interim Guidelines Renegotiation
Thursday, June 6th and Friday, June 7th, 2019
On June 6-7, 1869, John Wesley Powell’s expedition down the Colorado was prepping for passage through the Canyon of Lodore, an arduous journey that ultimately cost the expedition a ship and a third of the expedition’s provisions. Exactly 150 years later we gear up for a journey through Colorado River rapids of a different kind: How best to navigate through the upcoming negotiation of the new Interim Guidelines. The existing Interim Guidelines (IG)—which expire after 2026—have been instrumental in slowing reservoir declines, delaying curtailments, and establishing a collaborative environment for subsequent innovations, but truly sustainable water management is still an unrealized goal. With the help of emerging drought contingency plan (DCP) programs, is the new negotiation (IG 2.0) the last best opportunity to craft a lasting solution to the river’s broken water budget? If so, what data, concepts, frameworks, and principles are key to success?
Since the turn of the 21st century, storage on the Colorado River has declined while stress over the region’s water future has intensified.
The combined impact of overconsumption, drought, and climate change have exposed longstanding problems with the regional water budget, and have focused national attention on the urgency of improving management. Water managers, river advocates, and other concerned stakeholders and decision-makers are responding, increasingly through basin-wide initiatives that go beyond specifying how looming shortages will be distributed to actually trying to head-off the most painful potential impacts. Many of these efforts are at a critical juncture. As they come to fruition, several questions arise: Are we doing the right things? Is it enough? What needs to happen next?
Sponsored By: Walton Family Foundation Water Funder Initiative U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Porzak, Browning, and Bushong LLP Southern Nevada Water Authority
Moderated By: Doug Kenney, GWC Western Water Policy Program
Water scarcity is increasingly dominating headlines throughout the world. In the southwestern USA, the looming water shortages on the Colorado River system and the unprecedented drought in California are garnering the greatest attention. Similar stories of scarcity and crisis can be found across the globe, suggesting an opportunity for sharing lessons and innovations. For example, the Colorado River and Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin likely can share many lessons, as both systems were over-allocated, feature multiple jurisdictions, face similar climatic risks and drought stresses, and struggle to balance human demands with environmental needs. In this conference we cast our net broadly, exploring several salient topics including: trans-boundary cooperation, water marketing, Indigenous water rights, environmental and social water needs, and drought coping.
This public event ias informed by three invitation-only meetings held immediately before the conference: an “Indigenous Water Justice” symposium; a “Social Dimensions of Environmental Water Management” workshop; and a “Drought Crises in Federations” symposium.
Sponsored By: Canadian Research Council Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) Forum of Federations (Canada) International Joint Commission (USA and Canada) Living Rivers (USA) McMaster Water Network (Canada) Murray-Darling Basin Authority (Australia) Tropica
Moderated By: Doug Kenney
Speakers: Invited Speakers & Panelists Include (listed alphabetically): Elizabeth Anderson (Florida International University) Reed Benson (University of New Mexico) Oliver M. Brandes (University of Victoria) Srinivas Chokkakula (Centre for Policy Research, In)
Innovations in Managing Western Water: New Approaches for Balancing Environmental, Social, and Economic Outcomes June 11th and 12th, 2015 Many aspects of western water allocation and management are the product of independent and uncoordinated actions, several occurring a century or more ago. However, in this modern era of water scarcity, it is increasingly acknowledged that more coordinated and deliberate decision-making is necessary for effectively balancing environmental, social, and economic objectives. In recent years, a variety of forums, processes, and tools have emerged to better manage the connections between regions, sectors, and publics linked by shared water systems. In this event, we explore the cutting edge efforts, the latest points of contention, and the opportunities for further progress.
Presented by the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment, in conjunction with the Air-Water-Gas Sustainability Research Network Technological advances for extracting oil and gas from shale deposits have ushered in a new era of energy development in key resource-rich pockets throughout the US. In this event, we review the ongoing efforts of governments and industry to develop the regulatory and management practices necessary to protect water and air resources, drawing on the latest scientific research to tackle areas of uncertainty and to inform future action.
Moderated By: Britt Banks, Executive Director Getches-Wilkinson Center
Speakers: Patty Limerick, Jim Erb, Joe Ryan, Corrie Clark, Kathryn Mutz, Laura Belanger, Cabell Hodge, Anna Carion, Olivia Lucas, Gary Kaufmann, James Martin, Jill Cooper, Rich Haut, John Adgate, Rick Collins, Mark Boling, Steve D’Esposito, Rich Whitley, Dan Grossm