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July 7, 2023 / Volume 11, Issue 5

The Water Resources Research Center - a research unit of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and an Extension unit in UA Cooperative Extension within the Division of Agriculture, Life & Veterinary Sciences & Cooperative Extension. Land Acknowledgement.

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IN THIS ISSUE: Reflections, Associate Director/Specialist, UCOWR/NIWR, SCOTUS, DC Water Program, Reclamation, Global Groundwater Pumping

Reflections: On a Busy Spring

It is July, more than three months since my last Reflections, which was written from the UN Water Conference on World Water Day. The reason for the gap: an overabundance of work-related activities. Teaching, project work, engagement and speaking activities, media interviews, and more have kept me very busy.

Informing audiences of many kinds about our water situation has always been meaningful for me. Interest in understanding the complicated and uncertain implications to Arizona of low Colorado River flows has never been higher. Groundwater issues are of heightened interest as well. Whether the audience consists of students in my graduate course “Water Policy in Arizona and Semi-arid Regions,” community groups, conference/workshop attendees (including international), and/or the media, it’s always necessary to provide sufficient context and nuance. Though I have been complimented for explaining complex water issues concisely, I find it increasingly difficult to deliver quick summaries and explanations. Uneven impacts across geographic regions, across jurisdictions, and across and among water using sectors make generalizations impossible. Two examples drive this home.

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Register Free for WRRC Conference Livestream!


The WRRC 2023 Annual Conference is right around the corner! For those who are unable to join us in person on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 11–12, we are offering free registration for the non-interactive livestream of the event. We hope you can tune in for an expansive program featuring keynote speakers from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Arizona Department of Water Resources, Central Arizona Project, Salt River Project, and Water Infrastructure Finance Authority. Day 2 will also include a keynote panel titled The Importance of Tribal Consultation for Solutions, featuring perspectives from Tribal leaders. Other conference panels and presentations will cover topics including utilizing technology, working with nature, adapting policy, and improving farming practices. Visit our website to check out the agenda and register today!



31st Annual Arizona Water Law Conference

Dates: Aug 3–4, 2023

Location: Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas

6333 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

Join over 100 of your colleagues to hear all perspectives on issues surrounding the Colorado River, Financing Water Solutions, Adjudications, Water Quality, Arizona vs. Navajo Nation, and more! Featuring speakers from Prescott Valley, City of Phoenix, WIFA, US Department of the Interior, Central Arizona Project, ADWR, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, The Nature Conservancy, Upper Colorado River Commission, Navajo Nation Department of Justice, Las Vegas Valley Water District, and top law firms!


Register Here

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Upcoming WRRC Events

Jul 11–12: WRRC 2023 Annual Conference: What Can We Do? Solutions to Arizona's Water Challenges


WRRC Seeks Associate Director/Specialist


The University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) is actively seeking candidates for its Associate Director / Extension Specialist position to work closely with the Director, providing center administration, program direction, and leadership for the WRRC.

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WRRC Director Organizes Special Sessions at Annual UCOWR/NIWR Conference

WRRC Director Sharon B. Megdal participated in three special sessions at the 2023 Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) and The National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR) annual conference held on June 13–15 in Fort Collins, CO. The “Building Water Resiliency in Arizona” session, which she organized and moderated, featured remarks by Arizona experts from the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Central Arizona Project, the Arizona Water Banking Authority, and ASU’s Kyl Center for Water Policy and an engaging discussion. Her moderated “Southwest Groundwater and Sustainable Agricultural Systems under a Changing Climate” session was one of two featuring ongoing research from this multi-state USDA-funded project. Finally, the “East is East and West is West: Interstate River Basin Governance of Drought and Flood in the USA” panel involved some interesting discussion and comparison of watershed approaches to water allocation and management. Arizona water, land and water use decisions in an arid climate, and agricultural impacts to the Southwest were prominently mentioned in all the sessions. Megdal and Postdoctoral Research Associate Valerisa Gaddy served on the committee that planned this year’s conference, which attracted record attendance and was deemed an “astounding success” by UCOWR Executive Director Karl Willard.

Image: Kristen Johnson, Sharon B. Megdal, Kathryn Sorensen, Rebecca Bernat, Vineetha Kartha

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Supreme Court Rules in Navajo Water Rights Case


On June 22, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in the case Arizona v. Navajo Nation, holding that the 1868 treaty establishing the Navajo Reservation does “not require the United States to take affirmative steps to secure water for the Tribe.” In this case, originating from an initial suit filed in 2003, the Navajo Nation (Tribe) sought to “compel the Federal Defendants to determine the water required to meet the needs” of the Tribe in Arizona and to “devise a plan to meet those needs.” The majority’s opinion, delivered by Justice Kavanaugh and joined by Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Barrett, found that though the Court recognizes the Tribe’s right to water under the Winters doctrine and there is a general trust relationship between the US and the Tribe, “the historical record does not suggest that the United States agreed to undertake affirmative efforts to secure water for the Navajos – any more than the United States agreed to farm land, mine minerals, harvest timber, build roads or construct bridges on the reservation.” Justice Gorsuch’s 27-page dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson, suggests the majority’s opinion misinterprets the nature of the Tribe’s complaint and therefore analyzes it using the wrong legal framework. Justice Kavanaugh’s majority opinion does, however, as Justice Gorsuch points out, recognize that the Tribe “may be able to assert the interests they claim in water rights litigation, including by seeking to intervene in cases that affect their claimed interests.”


Arizona v. Navajo Nation

NY Times Decision Coverage

WRRC Makes a Splash in Washington DC at AZ Water Event

WRRC Director Sharon B. Megdal and Postdoctoral Research Associate Valerisa Gaddy participated in the “Arizona Water Deep Dive: Perspectives & Solutions” program at the Capitol Visitor Center, Washington DC on June 27, 2023. The University of Arizona hosted event was co-organized by the WRRC, the Office of Federal Relations, and the Office of Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement. At the half-day forum, congressional staff members and interns learned about current Arizona water issues, challenges, and solutions. Director Megdal kicked off the forum with an overview of AZ water. Sessions covering Tribal water, agriculture, Colorado River water supply challenges, and public health issues included discussion of solutions to secure a safe water future and provided time for participant questions. The WRRC thanks the expert speakers and moderators, several of whom traveled from Arizona for the program, our partners from the Office of Federal Relations and the Office of Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement, and the participants for contributing to an engaging program.

Image: Tina Gargus. Sharon B. Megdal and Crystal Tulley-Cordova

Comments Sought for Post-2026 Management of Lakes Powell and Mead


The US Bureau of Reclamation is developing updated operational guidelines for the management of Lakes Powell and Mead beyond 2026 when the current guidelines are set to expire. Reclamation has initiated its formal process of preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the guidelines. Part of the process is a series of meetings for the public to “submit comments concerning the scope of specific operational guidelines, strategies, and any other issues that should be considered.” Three virtual meetings are scheduled for July 17, 18, and 24, to provide information and solicit input. More information on the EIS and links to join the meetings can be found on the Notice of Intent published in the Federal Register, linked below.

EIS and Meeting Information

Massive Global Groundwater Pumping Shifts Earth’s Polar Tilt

Did you know that changes to the shape of the Earth and the distribution of mass on its surface change the tilt of the planet on its polar axis? This useful fact allowed scientists to confirm the model estimate that more than 2,150 gigatons of groundwater were pumped between 1993 and 2010, which translates to 6.24 millimeters of sea level rise. The report, by Ki-Weon Seo, Dongryeol Ryu, Jooyoung Eom, Taewhan Jeon, Jae-Seung Kim, Kookhyoun Youm, Jianli Chen, and Clark R. Wilson, noted that mass changes due to groundwater pumping were the second-largest factor influencing the change in polar tilt. Other factors include mass changes of glaciers, water stored in artificial reservoirs, soil moisture, atmospheric winds, and ocean currents. The work, reported recently in the American Geophysical Union’s Geophysical Research Letters, found that water redistribution from aquifers to the oceans explains an axial shift of about 78.48 cm (4.24 cm/year) during 1993–2010.


Image: Pexels.com

Correction: In the June 23 issue of the Summer Wave, there was an error in the article bidding farewell to Linda Heffernan. She is retiring from the University of Arizona Department of Environmental Science.


WRRC Seeks Associate Director/Specialist

The University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) is actively seeking candidates for its Associate Director / Extension Specialist position to work closely with the Director, providing center administration, program direction, and leadership for WRRC. In this position, the successful candidate will also conduct applied research and engagement, pursue scholarly activities, and establish and maintain extramural funding. The minimum qualifications include a Doctorate or equivalent terminal degree, a minimum of five years of work experience related to Arizona’s and regional water management, a strong record of scholarly accomplishments, and a record of collaborative projects and programs. The WRRC is administratively located within the University of Arizona’s Division of Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, and Cooperative Extension and is also part of the National Institutes for Water Resources, a national network of federally authorized institutes/centers that address unique water-related concerns of the individual states and the nation. The academic home of the position will depend on the candidate’s specialization and the rank will depend on the candidate’s record and experience.

Please visit UA Talent req14913 for additional information on the position and to apply.

Please visit WRRC's website for a complete listing of water jobs & opportunities.



Santa Cruz River Research Days 2023 Recordings

View Recordings

Bureau of Reclamation News Release

Interior Department Initiates Process to Develop Future Guidelines and Strategies for Protecting the Colorado River. Read Here

ConserveAZ Spring Magazine Released

Spring has sprung! Flora and fauna are blooming and buzzing, and we're gearing up for summer! Browse Arizona’s Conservation Districts’ library of magazines to read more about the great work conservation districts and producers are doing to Conserve AZ!


The Urban Farm Water Harvesting Summit 2023 Speakers & Schedule

During the Water Harvesting Summit, you’ll learn techniques from experts for harvesting your own water, from rainwater to greywater. You’ll learn how to build healthier soil that can hold more water. And you’ll learn some efficient and effective garden-watering techniques. More Info

Arizona Water Protection Fund Accepting Applications for Fiscal Year 2024 Grant Cycle More Info


Call for Abstracts: AGU 2023 GC001: Adaptive Solutions to Water Scarcity

If you are interested in Adaptive Solutions to Water Scarcity in waterlimited regions please consider sharing your research, practice and/or outreach in this session at AGU 2023. This session invites presentations that focus on Earth’s drier regions, and that explore adaptive solutions to water scarcity. These could include regional to transnational approaches down to the community or individual scale; solutions may emerge from novel technologies, economic applications, social frameworks, creative management, and local to national policies, or a combination of these factors. Perspectives that recognize the significant social inequities associated with adapting to water insecurities are encouraged. The abstract submission deadline is August 2, 3:59 p.m. ET. More Info

Applications Open for Indigenous DataSET Fellowship

Shape the future of Indigenous Data Sovereignty in Arizona! Early career faculty (postdoc through assistant professor) at all public universities and tribal colleges in the state are invited to participate in the inaugural cohort of Indigenous DataSET fellows by July 15, 2023. More Info


ADEQ Notice of Final Rulemaking — Water Quality Permit and Service

Fees Update

ADEQ kicked off the final step of rulemaking by submitting the Water Quality Permit and Service Fee Rule to the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council on June 16, 2023. The rule is expected to be considered at the council's July 25 study session and considered for approval at its August 1 monthly meeting. If approved during the August 1 meeting, the effective date for the fee rule would be August 4, 2023. More Info


National Wildlife Federation Policy Fellowship — Resilient Water Resources

The National Wildlife Federation is seeking a Kate Zimmerman Policy Fellow to support the Western Water Director in improving land management policies and practices that foster resilience and sustainability of the West’s water resources, with a focus on the restoration and protection of riparian corridors. This 11-month position offers $25.00 per hour plus core benefits. This Fellowship honors Kate Zimmerman, a public lands champion and giant of conservation policy that helped to conserve millions of acres of the nation’s public lands during her illustrious career. The Fellowship builds on Kate’s legacy and supports the leadership development of the next generation of women conservation policy leaders. More Info

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