Conferences and Workshops
Every other year WREP hosts a conference or workshop related to water resources or watershed science and policy.
Water management and climate change in northern Arizona, Summer 2011
This one-day workshop consisted of technical presentations by climatologists and water management experts. Afterward, discussion groups
were convened to discuss several inter-related questions:
- What are the significant perceived challenges to water resource management
in light of climate change?
- What planning/management approaches will enable us to cope with
uncertainties regarding future climate?
- What kinds of scientific knowledge are most useful in facilitating water resource
management during increased climate variability?
- Tree Rings and Water
Resource Management in the Southwest. Connie Woodhouse, School of Geography and Development,
University of Arizona. Download.
Regional Climate Modeling for the Southwest. Christopher
Castro, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona. Download
- USGS Global
Change: Impacts on Water Resources, and Climate Change Programs Nationally
and in the Southwest. Don Bills, Geological Survey (USGS),
Arizona Water Science Center. Download.
- Approaches For Integrating Climate Change Into Water
Resources Planning. Levi Brekke, Hydraulic Engineer, Bureau of
Reclamation, Denver, Colorado. Download.
- Tree-rings, gages and
climate models: Salt River Project’s new methodology for water resources
planning and reservoir management on the Salt-Verde watershed. Jon Skindlov, Water Resource Operations, Salt River
Project, Phoenix. Download
Discussion Group Process and
Experts in climate change science and water management moderated breakout
sessions and guided the conversation through a series of follow-up questions
and subtopics (below):
can policy-makers and management agencies encourage the public to focus on
behaviors that will promote sustainable watersheds?
group members felt that we need to improve knowledge of the hydrologic cycle
and how human management has affected watersheds and landscapes in Arizona. It
was also suggested that the complex interaction between riparian vegetation and
water level fluctuation is poorly understood by the general public; improved
dissemination of information about these processes could prove helpful.
Discussion group members suggested that outreach efforts by management agencies
should focus on water users (and not on legislators), and that these same water
users may provide useful feedback to management agencies. Water users may be
able to provide multiple water management variables for input into models of
Arizona's watersheds from the “grassroots” level. The discussion group members
also recommended that newer and more sustainable technologies should be made
available to both private and community water users.
can we improve the communication of scientific issues to better inform
groups were concerned that there was inadequate funding for climate research,
and that an additional financial investment in climate modeling and improved
communication/public outreach would better inform watershed management in the
face of climate change. Discussion group members frequently brought up the need
for readily available, easy-to-interpret, downscaled climate projections.
Specifically, they indicated that there is a need for precipitation projections
that are specific to Arizona, and that this information must be made available
and relevant to the general public. In addition, discussion group participants
felt that care must be taken to effectively communicate data generated from
models and projections to the general public, and that the overarching message
of climate change and variability should be communicated, if at all possible,
in a non-political and non-biased manner. Participants in the discussion groups
also felt that improved knowledge of watershed processes and issues related to
climate change would better allow water users to adjust to any “acute” changes
in water availability that may occur in the future.
methods and practices can be used to maintain sustainable watersheds in the
face of climate change?Responses:
Discussion group participants felt
there was a need to control the rise of water demand in Arizona. An example of
this type of pro-active management has been set by AZ state parks, which have
seen a dramatic reduction in water-use since the implementation of a 2004 water
conservation initiative. Discussion group participants suggested that water
suppliers and users can employ strategies emphasizing flexibility to mitigate
possible problems with variable future water supplies, especially if climate
changes trigger drought events are sporadic and severe in nature.
it more important to plan for population growth and/or for sustainable water
use in Arizona?Responses:
felt that by making per capita changes in water use habits, quality of life
could be sustained in the face of climate change. To this end, it is important
for water agencies to promote more sustainable per capita water use practices
(for example, reduced shower times, infrequent watering of lawns). In addition,
sustainable water-use practices and management strategies should be encouraged
and implemented for all demographics and regions of Arizona. This last idea is
particularly relevant to ongoing changes to the ways land is used in Arizona:
for example, conversion of agriculture land to industrial/residential,
increased importance of sustainable power generation, etc.
Participants suggested that Arizona should consider monitoring private
groundwater wells, which historically have not been monitored, at least in
terms of withdrawal volumes. Participants also suggested that it would be
useful to monitor, assess and summarize groundwater-aboveground water
fluctuations---both for regional aquifers and for the state’s entire water
will projected regional climate changes for Arizona influence timing of water
replenishment and recharge events?Responses:
felt that more sporadic, unpredictable and dramatic precipitation events will
require changes to water agencies’ existing ability to catch precipitation and
control groundwater recharge. It was recommended that water agencies expand
their storage options so that they can provide additional water during extended
drought periods. In the face of the challenges posed by climate change,
participants felt that flexibility and coordination across multiple-agencies in
terms of planning and management would be necessary to accommodate all Arizona
stakeholders. The discussion group participants also suggested that it will be
necessary to implement “system thinking” to address entire watershed-related
issues; that is, the water management needs to be treated as a single,
integrated issue, not as a series of disconnected “problems.” Participants
noted that we must also improve the public’s understanding of water use issues,
particularly with regard to watershed use and management and engage the public
regularly during the decision-making process.
can Arizona model to improve future watershed issues in face of climate change
Participants discussed other groups
(tribes, countries, geographic regions) that have a successful history of
dealing with drought and water shortages. It was suggested that some of these
groups might serve as a “model” for Arizona to follow as climate change reduces
water availability with the state. Several key ideas/questions emerged during
this discussion. (1) Are there water management lessons to be learned from the
pre-colonial societies of the Southwest? (2) Could a distant community serve as
a model for water use in Arizona? Australia and South Africa were suggested as
potential model communities and both have strict government regulation of per
capita water use. (3) Are there local communities that could serve as templates
for water management strategies? Swales, Arizona, and the Navajo Nation were
both suggested as having exceptional water management policies.
It was noted that there is variability between major population areas within
Arizona, but that these diverse areas need to be managed under one, unified
water management plan, as compared with current, separate water-management
regimes. Participants also suggested that there is a need for improved lines of
communication among scientists, policy makers and stakeholders. As things
stand, there appears be a “disconnect” between public perception of water
management issues and the actual problems faced by management agencies.
are easily tangible regional problems and/or solutions for water management?Responses:
group participants suggested looking to solutions already being employed at
community and grassroots levels. Key ideas that emerged during this discussion
focused on recapturing water that may be “lost” under current management
practices. In particular, participants suggested that increased emphasis should
be placed on (1) small-scale storm water catchments (for example, water
barrels) that will allow precipitation to be harvested for local use and (2)
water conservation/sustainable infrastructures (for example, permeable
pavements) that may improve ground water recharge during precipitation events.
can we integrate climate change variability and natural climatological
processes into watershed management?Responses:
groups felt that riparian habitats in Arizona represent a key link in
understanding the interface between temperature, precipitation, and water
management. An awareness of the need for ecological sustainability may also
raise awareness of the need for “cultural” sustainability---that is, the need
for users and management agencies to implement water conservation strategies.
It was also suggested that scientists and management agencies should identify
critical thresholds for Arizona's watersheds, and manage the watersheds with
the overarching goal of maintaining these levels. Discussion group members
suggested that changes could be made to existing infrastructure to facilitate
water storage and redistribution to accommodate the variable precipitation
projections under regional climate change models.
extensive are Arizona’s water resources?Responses:
stated that water resources are likely being depleted at a rate that cannot be
sustained. Participants were particularly concerned about the management of
groundwater (aquifer) resources in Arizona and felt that we need to improve our
understanding of aquifer use and aquifer recharge. In addition, participants
rpeatedly expressed concern that there is a lack of understanding of the nature
of this depletion and the problems that depletion will eventually pose for
water management in Arizona. Concern was expressed over “aquifer injections”:
in particular, how does artificial input of treated wastewater in to the
aquifer affect biological process and natural filtration? Discussion group
participants suggested that it is necessary to improve the monitoring of
withdrawals from the aquifer and that that Arizona must enter into an era of
state-level, long-term water planning.
Financial support for this conference was provided by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and University of Arizona’s CLIMAS.
Panel of national, state, and local experts address reclaimed water issues, December 5, 2011
Reclaimed Water forum provided a public presentation for five experts in
reclaimed water from the national, state, and local levels to present
scientific knowledge around reclaimed water and to field questions from the
public. The presentations by each panel members addressed the human health
risks, regulatory framework and treatment methods for reclaimed water.
Following a presentation by each panel member, panel members addressed
questions from the audience.
Panel presentationsRead more:
first presentation was by Brad Hill, Utilities Director for the City of Flagstaff.
He addressed an overview of the best management practices for reclaimed water
treatment and use from an international scale to a local scale. Over 90% of
water re-use occurs in just four states in the U.S., and Arizona is one of those
states, re-using 205, 000 acre-feet/year. Flagstaff stands as a leader even in
Arizona, as 20% of the municipal water use is from reclaimed water, and is used
for a range of uses, including: irrigation, construction, industry, and amenity
lakes. Water treatment occurs at two facilities, the Wildcat Hill facility and
the Rio de Flag facility, which together, treat a capacity of 10 MGD (million
gallons per day). Hill’s presentation closed by advocating for re-use, not
disposal of reclaimed water.
Brad Hill was Dr. Shane Snyder, who is a professor at the University of Arizona
and co-director at the Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants. Opening his talk,
he posed the question: “when does wastewater just become water?”, and suggested
that we are all “swimming in a sea of chemicals”. He presented the results of
his research, which involves sensitivity analysis on compounds of emerging
concern (CEC’s). Of 62 compounds researched across the country, they detected
only 11 compounds, most at concentrations below 1 part per billion. His
research team also calculated the acceptable daily intake, and found that
individuals would have to intake hundreds to thousands of liters of water per
day for any harmful impact. His presentation concluded by re-iterating that all
water has been, or can be re-used, and that global sustainability will depend
on recycling water.
next panel member to speak was Mike Fulton, the Director of the Water Quality
Division at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (AZDEQ). Fulton’s presentation
primarily focused on examining the past and present trends in wastewater
treatment and reclaimed water in Arizona. He gave a detailed description of the
treatment which includes: 1) primary treatment (physical processes), 2) secondary
treatment (biological processes), and 3) tertiary treatments (chemical
processes). The management options for reclaimed water following this treatment
regime include discharge to surface water courses, infiltration, recharge, and
Graf, Senior Hydrologist at AZDEQ followed Fulton and
gave a presentation that detailed the regulatory framework around reclaimed
water in Arizona. There are five different classifications for reclaimed water
in Arizona: A+, A, B+, B, C. The lowest classification, class C, is designated
for extremely minimal public contact and is to be used for irrigation and
forage production. Class B is for restricted public use and is designated for
uses such as golf courses, livestock watering, orchards, and landscape. Class A
reclaimed water, the highest classification, is for open public access and can
be used for irrigation, recreation, snowmaking, etc. In Arizona, wastewater treatment plants own their treated
wastewater and have control over the distribution and re-use of it. There are
two types of permits for end uses: single end users and reclaimed water agent
permit. Because of this strong regulatory framework, 65% of Arizona’s water
treatment plants distributed treated wastewater for reuse. The last portion of
his presentation addressed CEC’s in Arizona’s treated wastewater and announced
that the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on water sustainability recommends
accelerating research on CEC’s in reclaimed water.
Carpenter, the Vice President of Carollo Engineers and Board Member on the National
WateReuse Association, presented information regarding the wastewater treatment
process, applications for re-use, and the costs associated with different
levels of treatment. There are five general steps to wastewater treatment: bar
screening, settling, activated sludge, filtration and disinfections through
chlorine or UV radiation. Although this conventional method does an excellent
job of treating sewage, they can only go so far to remove trace organic
chemical. Advanced treatment options, such as microfiltration, reverse osmosis
and advanced oxidation processes can reduce the content of CEC’s, but these
facility upgrades have significant cost implications. To improve CEC removal in
the City of Flagstaff’s wastewater treatment facilities to a 95% removal rate,
each person in Flagstaff would have to contribute $700. To increase CEC removal
to 90%, each person in Flagstaff would have to contribute $140. Ultimately, the
treatment comes down to a tradeoff of cost and quality. As ratepayers who have
a vote in their public utilities, it is our decision.
Questions and answersRead more:
Questions were written on cards by
the audience and submitted during the presentation. Questions were not
addressed individually, but were grouped into general themes.
can we mitigate the lag time between scientific knowledge and its incorporation
Chuck Graf noted that sometimes it
can take years to test a new idea, get data and then translate that into
policy. Brad Hill asserted that because of this time lag, the utilities
industry has taken upon itself to decide to treat water for a number of compounds
on a cautionary basis, even though not required by the government.
are the health risks associated with prolonged exposure to CEC’s through reclaimed
Carpenter cited an example of
reclaimed water use in Namibia, where water users have been consuming reclaimed
water as potable water for over 35 years. He also noted that endocrine
disruptors likely have a generational impact. At the levels that we are being
exposed to, the extrapolations are showing no risk to human health. Dr. Snyder
then explained that although fish and amphibians have shown deformities from
exposure, extrapolating those effects to humans is an enormous leap.
is the difference between A+ reclaimed water and drinking water?
Graf stated that drinking water and
A+ reclaimed water are just two different things that are treated to two
different standards. Drinking water has to meet standards for a number of
different standards, and these standards are based on exposure. For reclaimed
water, the concern is on pathogenic contaminants.
eating snow safe?
All panelists agree that “safe” is
subjective. A+ water is not advisable for drinking but it is safe for very
casual exposure. Reclaimed water standards stipulated that there can’t be any
E. coli, whereas surface water standards include higher tolerances for
E. coli. One panelist said “I think
the standards are protective of human health”. Carpenter mentioned that the
process of making snow may increase pathogen die-off, but other than that, snow
making likely does not change the composition or compound content of reclaimed