Western Governors Approve Plan To Manage Water

In June, governors in the Western states adopted broad-based recommendations and strategies for managing the region's limited water resources. They also discussed best practices for conserving public lands and communicated their priorities on specific issues via satellite with Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne.

"Over the last decade many Westerners have witnessed remarkable change: new industries and jobs, tremendous growth, ever increasing commute times to jobs," said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, chairperson of the Western Governors' Association (WGA).

"We are working together to analyze and respond to the impacts of this growth on land, wildlife, water, housing communities, transportation and jobs," she said. "Western governors are demonstrating real leadership in identifying actions we can take as states, as a region, and by working together with the federal government -- the largest single landowner in the West."

The governors adopted recommendations prepared by the Western States Water Council, titled: "Water Needs and Strategies for a Sustainable Future" (http://www.westgov.org/wga/meetings/am2006/Water06.pdf). They include:

  • Examine the role of water policy relative to sustainable growth. States should identify water requirements needed for future growth and develop integrated growth and water supply impact scenarios that can be presented to local decision-makers.
  • Analyze state needs and identify strategies to meet future demands. For example, better integration of vast amounts of data is needed.
  • Identify water infrastructure needs and promising strategies for meeting them. Stable federal funding and flexibility for states to address their priorities is key.
  • Identify means to resolve Native American water right claims in ways that provide water to tribes, while minimizing disruption to existing non-tribal uses.
  • Describe potential ramifications of climate change on Western water resources, and develop recommendations to assist states in preparing for these impacts, including drought preparedness, flood control and data collection.
  • Work with federal agencies to develop a protocol for improving coordination and cooperation in protecting aquatic species under the Endangered Species Act within the framework of state water laws.

The governors also released a report, "Collaborative Conservation Strategies: Legislative Case Studies from Across the West" (http://www.westgov.org/wga/meetings/am2006/omnibus06.pdf). It examined results and lessons learned from a number of efforts to address growth and development while protecting wilderness.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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