Work begins to create the Cobre Valley Watershed Partnership

Far right, standing, Susanna Eden, with the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center, facilitates the small group discussion on economy and development, during the Small Town Water Forum, held Thursday, Sept. 6 at Bullion Plaza, in Miami. Photo by Carol Broeder.

A watershed partnership is being created for Cobre Valley over the next two years to implement needed watershed projects.

The Cobre Valley Watershed Partnership (CVWP) will be funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART program.

In 2012, the Bureau predicted the current gap between water supply and demand (use) in the western United States would grow even larger in the coming decades.

When the demand for water exceeds — or threatens to exceed — supply, competition intensifies, and scarcity becomes a potential source of conflict.

Creating watershed partners is a way to not only “understand and allocate available resources,” but foster cooperation among stakeholders, which is particularly crucial in rural areas with limited resources.

Given the right tools, watershed partnerships can be “powerful mechanisms” for improving water resource management.

A Small-Town Water Forum was held Thursday, Sept. 6 at Bullion Plaza Cultural Center, in Miami, to establish a foundation for discussing water supply and demand in Cobre Valley.

Organizers hoped forum participants would use the foundation to build “a well-informed and progressive water resource management plan” for the Cobre Valley.

Through a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, the University of Arizona Water Resource Research Center (WRRC) and Gila County Cooperative Extension did much of the work leading up to the forum.

At the beginning of the Sept. 6 forum, Mary Belle Cruz Ayala, with U of A WRCC, reviewed the “Water Handbook for Cobre Valley,” distributed that day to forum participants.

The handbook provided an introduction, as well as a “snapshot in time of current water-related topics based on available data,” especially relating to area water supply and demand.

A primary goal for the Sept. 6 forum was addressing the question as to what choices can be made to “safeguard and enhance our most precious resource — water — into the future?”

Water supply, quality and uses, as well as “drought, economic factors and water-dependent environmental values” were named as “just a few of the topics intrinsically intertwined in the watershed.”

The forum attempted to bring area decision-makers and water managers together with other stakeholders and water resource experts.

The goals were to:

Build a common understanding of water resources management and water supply/demand in Cobre Valley.

Agree on a vision for the watershed, considering social, environmental and economic resilience and adaptivity.

Form working groups focusing on specific areas that include funding opportunities, water supply and demand data and recreation.

Prepare for the next forum, planned for Spring 2019, which will outline an action plan and detail how different partners may contribute to a watershed-wide collaboration.

Set and rank priorities in the categories of system efficiency and conservation; economy and development, and recreation and environment.

Toward the end of the forum, participants broke into small groups based on one of the three categories.

After about an hour of discussion, the small groups rejoined the larger session, with each facilitator presenting their group’s top priorities.

Each forum participant then had the opportunity to vote on the top priorities to work on prior to the 2019 water forum.

The results of the vote are as follows:

Develop a comprehensive water budget.

Public awareness to motivate conservation.

Set framework for private-public partnerships for long-term water supply.

Education of the public and decision makers.

Look at feasibility of matching water quality to use.

Ecological stewardship to preserve, enhance and manage natural resources of resilience, adaptation and transformation.

Combine and share both knowledge and resources under guiding philosophies for collective impact.

Membership in the CVWP is open to any interested individual or organization.

For more information, or to become involved in a CVWP working group, contact Ashley Hullinger, with U of A WRCC, at 520-621-8252 or via e-mail [email protected] or Susanna Eden at 520-621-5670 or via e-mail at [email protected]

(Note: This is the first story in a series on the Cobre Valley Watershed Partnership. Look for future stories in upcoming editions of the Arizona Silver Belt.)

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