Statement on Historic Water Conservation Agreement
Without new approaches to water management in the Colorado River Basin, there will no longer be enough water in the river to meet growing demand from our farms, our cities, and the river itself. While we understand this won’t be easy, we believe today’s agreement represents a meaningful commitment to achieve solutions that bring stability, reliability, and sustainability to the region. And while this is a positive step, it is only one step. Today proves that we can bring diverse parties together to develop creative solutions that benefit everyone involved, and we must continue to work together to solve the water resource challenges facing the Colorado River basin.
Remarks by Barry Gold from the Memorandum of Understanding Signing Ceremony
July 14, 2017 - Phoenix, Arizona Good morning, on behalf of the Walton Family Foundation I want to commend Governor Lewis and the Gila River Indian Community for their leadership. I also want to thank Governor Ducey and the State of Arizona, the City of Phoenix and the Bureau of Reclamation for taking this positive step to conserve water for the benefit of the Colorado River system.
As someone who lived in Flagstaff Arizona for almost seven years and spent significant time working on Colorado River issues, it is especially heartening to be part of this collective effort. Twenty-years ago, my experience was one of controversy and disagreement, today it is one of collaboration.
What brings us together today is water.
Water for a healthy Colorado River and the wildlife and habitat it sustains;Water for people to drink;Water for farms and ranchesWater for businesses and economic development;And, making sure our children and grandchildren have a sustainable source of water in the futureAt the Walton Family Foundation we believe that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.We have made a long-term commitment to the Colorado River. We see a future where healthy rivers and secure water supplies go hand in hand.
The Colorado River is an incredible resource that provides many economic, environmental, ecological, and social benefits to the Colorado River basin states.
But, the Colorado River needs our help if it is to continue supporting healthy economies, communities, and ecosystems.
Data and modeling from the Bureau of Reclamation suggests that the new normal in the Colorado River basin is both reduced water and more variable supplies. That without new approaches to management there will no longer be enough water in the river to meet growing demand from our farms, our cities, and the river itself.
Today’s agreement to conserve 40,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water and dedicate it to “the system” protects Lake Mead’s water levels and provides breathing room to develop a longer-term, more sustainable system conservation program. This new approach to managing the Colorado River can reduce uncertainty with respect to future water supplies in the Colorado River Basin.
We chose to engage in this agreement because we support water conservation efforts as a key tool that must be better developed, and made available, to reduce the water supply/demand imbalance that exists in the Colorado River basin.
The Walton Family Foundation and its grantees are privileged to work with and support the work of the seven Colorado River basin states, tribes, cities, agricultural and environmental interests, and the Bureau of Reclamation to explore solutions -- including aggressive conservation, infrastructure improvements, riparian restoration, and flexible water management strategies -- to benefit everyone in the basin.
While we understand this won’t be easy, we believe today’s agreement represents a meaningful commitment to achieve a solution or set of solutions that brings stability, reliability, and sustainability to the Colorado River for the benefit of people and the environment.
So in closing, while this is a positive step it is only one step. We need to use the momentum of this moment to establish a longer-term system conservation program within Arizona, and a conservation program that can be applied more broadly to the entire Colorado River basin. We must also secure agreements for a drought contingency plan in the lower basin and renew the U.S. – Mexico binational agreement.
Today’s agreement demonstrates that we can bring diverse parties together to develop creative solutions that benefit each of the parties, and the Colorado River itself, and we must continue to work together to solve the water resource challenges facing the Colorado River basin.