Last month, I joined a coalition of business leaders at the Arizona Capitol to encourage legislative leaders to come forward with a drought contingency plan to face some of our state’s most pressing water problems. It was an incredibly important conversation – not only for the businesses that invest in this state, but more importantly for the people who make Arizona our home. Our message was simple: the future of Arizona and our ongoing ability to attract and retain businesses depends on reliable, secure cost-effective sources of water.
During that conversation, we also shared our concerns about water risk, the conservation and efficiency measures our companies have invested in, and our collective commitment to water stewardship. We are hopeful that our leaders will see, as we have, the real economic need for a comprehensive drought plan.
Arizona has a long track record of successfully managing our state’s most precious resource: From the founding of the Salt River Valley Water User’s Association, to the historic Groundwater Management Act, to the formation of the Central Arizona Project. Together, elected and business leaders have proven time and again that they can find smart solutions to safeguard our economy and water supply.But there is more to do: Arizona and the West are enduring a drought that has already lasted 18 years. Snowpack is well below average across the Colorado River basin and there are few signs of improvement. We are facing real challenges that may seriously impact our way of life and economic well-being.
Water is critical to keeping Arizona open for business. According to a 2015 study from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, the Annual Gross State Product dependent on the availability of Colorado River water for Arizona alone is $185 billion. Across the state, 2,147,770 jobs depend on the availability of Colorado River water. That means our economic health is bound up with the health of the Colorado River system. Businesses are doing their part. Many are funding river restoration and water stewardship projects around the state, investing in farm efficiencies, and helping find ways to make sure this resource is here for generations to come.
However, there are broader efforts that must be accomplished. Arizona, California and Nevada are still taking more water out of Lake Mead than nature is putting in. It is critically important that we put policy in place to ensure that our water bank accounts in Lake Mead and Lake Powell are secure.
Drought planning now can ensure that our water savings in these reservoirs are stable and predictable. We must have a sense of urgency in our state and across the West to find solutions to these problems. Every day we delay will make decisions more difficult tomorrow.
The business community is here to help find the solutions we need to ensure we can stay in business and continue to grow in Arizona. The state has made great strides in water policy and planning in the past. It’s time to come to the table, once again, to be proactive and set the stage for long-term, practical solutions.It is the only way for our rivers, our businesses, our economy, and our communities to continue to flourish. Arizona has done it before and we will do it again.
— Noah Mundt is senior program manager for energy and environmental solutions, Siemens Industry Inc.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.