Prior to its June 4 meeting the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors took time to recognize the 30th anniversary of the first Central Arizona Project water delivery. Six past presidents – Howard Wuertz, Grady Gammage, George Renner (who participated by video message), Bill Perry, Susan Bitter Smith and Pam Pickard – joined current board president Lisa Atkins who set the stage by reminding everyone that CAP would not be where it is today without the fine work completed over the past 30 years.
Following is a little recap of their walk down memory lane:
Howard Wuertz (1977 - 1983, Pinal County) – “When we first began our work, Jimmy Carter was in office as president. He wouldn't allow the money to flow unless we did something about conserving water. Bruce Babbitt formed a committee, which led to the Groundwater Management Act of 1980. That set the stage for Arizona's reputation for strong water management policy.”
Grady Gammage (1995 – 2005, Maricopa County) – “Once the canal was declared 'complete,' we were immediately in crises mode. We needed to put into place 'target pricing' with the irrigation districts that were our largest customers and to begin direct and indirect water recharge. We also had a dispute with the federal government to resolve regarding the amount we needed to repay. We dealt with that by settling issues related to Indian water rights. In everything we did, CAP showed nimble creativity in managing this remarkable resource. There will always be complex challenges. Arizona has managed these incredibly well and should be proud.”
George Renner (1999 – 2005, Maricopa County) –“There are few issues more important to Arizona than water. It's been challenging, yet satisfying. Once we settled the repayment issue, we were able to turn the page into a new era. We turned our attention to identifying the 'next bucket' - looking at how we'd continue to provide water to future generations. That work is more important today than ever before.”
William Perry (2005 – 2007, Maricopa County) – “As we worked to identify the ways to conserve and augment our water supplies, we implemented the CAGRD 10-year plan, doubled our underground storage capacity and piloted projects such as cloud seeding. We also launched the 50-year multi-species conservation plan that has protected 26 species, seven of which are either threatened or endangered. In 2006, when the threat of shortage first hit, we came to an agreement about the management of Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Through all of this, I was so very impressed with the CAP employees who were always professional and willing to do what it took to ensure we were prepared for the future.”
Susan Bitter Smith (2007 – 2011, Maricopa County) – “The work started during Grady Gammage's term as president and continued by Bill Perry, was finalized during my term as we finally resolved the Gila River Indian Community Water Rights Settlement. We also continued to look for innovative solutions to potential shortage by initiating a trial run of the Yuma Desalting Plant and working with our agricultural community on water banking, groundwater management and water planning. And then, CAP headed into one of its greatest challenges to date – settling with the EPA on the Navajo Generating Station issue, which required a great deal of education to connect the dots for people as to why this was important. My time on the board was truly fulfilling because decisions were made that have generational impacts on future Arizonans.”
Pam Pickard (2011 – 2015, Maricopa County) – “Our board was initially immersed in dealing with the Navajo Generating Station issue. We took advantage of and sought out every opportunity to talk with any one person or organization that could assist us in obtaining a favorable ruling. It was an unprecedented effort for CAP and ultimately we were successful. Our board also went places as we built relationships with the Lower Basin states and Mexico. We listened, asked questions and learned a lot about the importance of communication and collaboration.”
Board President Lisa Atkins concluded by reflecting upon the importance of remembering where we've been and drive where we're going. Thanks to the work of CAP's past board members and employees, Arizona is in a strong position to deal with the current and upcoming challenges of drought and shortage.