Jun 30

Highlights from AWRA Summer 2011 Specialty Conference

Highlights of the 2011 AWRA IWRM Summer Conference

Margaret Herzog, CSU Student (PhD WRPM), Water Action Network


The theme of this year’s AWRA Summer Conference (Snowbird, UT, June 27-29, 2011) was Integrated Water Resources Management: The Emperor’s New Clothes or Indispensable Process? The stated goal was to determine if anyone can actually successfully implement Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) defined by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) as: “a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land, and related resources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.”  This working definition was explored through IWRM examples in practice and tools used to help achieve IWRM. The theme was punctuated by a truly skeptical emperor (performed by Michael Campana – outgoing AWRA president – luckily clothed, circa 100 B.C.) who began the conference unsure of the implementability of IWRM, but who seemed nearly convinced by the end.


In the Plenary Session, Steve Stockton, USACE Director of Civil Works, discussed how floodplain management structures designed 70-100 years ago along our major rivers systems must be repurposed to better meet contemporary needs. He believes establishing a National Vision will help us develop the required shift in perspective to make such difficult adjustments. Karen Krchnak, Director of International Water Policy for the Nature Conservancy, explained how to put an E for Environment into Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM). She stressed coordination at different levels of government for better joint management of land and water resources through stakeholder involvement and alliances. She reminded attendees that IWRM is a journey, a process rather than an endpoint; we can set the trajectory even if we cannot reach all the goals in our own lifetimes.

Dr. Jerome Delli Priscoli, USACE IWR – Editor in Chief of Water Policy, provided another keynote: Clothing the IWRM Emperor by Using Collaborative Modeling for Decision Support. He explained how collaborative modeling helps manage the gray area between political and technical issues by crossing jurisdictional / agency boundaries through broadened stakeholder participation (process cauldron) to better achieve macro societal goals. He emphasized that the essence of IWRM is to develop clear trade-off analysis as a basis for decision making, not after predetermined objectives have already been met. He also recognized that social goals change over time, demanding continual alteration in water use. He revealed that analyzing someone’s preferences typically does not equate to the direct stakeholder involvement needed to enhance the quality and implementability of decisions. In closing, he remarked that the ancient Chinese symbols for river + dike = political order, in other words, water reform is always political.

Next, Ari Mickelson, Research Director of Natural Resource Economics at Texas A&M, informed attendees that the 6th World Wide Water Forum focusing on Time for Solutions will be held in Marseille, France March 12-17, 2012. The forum will include over 25,000 attendees representing more than 192 countries to develop action plans focusing on smart and wise targets to achieve 12 key priorities. For more information or to get involved, see the following link to the Forum.

Among the workshops provided Monday afternoon was a session covering UNESCO Hydrology for the Environment, Life, and Policy (HELP) Basins, which included a presentation of one of five among the 91 worldwide located in the United States in the Iowa / Cedar River Basins that had experienced severe flooding in both 1993 and 2008. This project focuses on capacity building to further the goals of a broad agency alliance, which includes application of an integrated Watershed Data and Information System to better plan for climate change.

The conference was coordinated with USACE’s Institute for Water Resources and Sandia National Laboratories to include a full day Symposium on Collaborative Modeling as a Tool to Implement IWRM (aka Shared Vision Planning or SVP) on Tuesday. During Tuesdays Symposium, one of the fathers of Shared Vision Planning, Bill Werick, Werick Creative Solutions, LLC, described more than two decades of successes and failures with the tool. Rather than asking what a future model predicts in 50 years, he recommends asking what future event would kill you, then considering the costs to avoid all plausible risks. He emphasized that planning must be dynamic, incorporating a truly adaptive management strategy with ongoing funding. Even if every SVP effort does not lead to immediate results, he believes that it usually does create a sleeper cell of informed stakeholders ready to mobilize when the next crisis arises. Other worldwide symposium presenters discussed SVP in the Tigris-Euphrates, Iraq; Murray-Darling, Australia; and the Amazonian headwaters in Peru, and more that can be found in the Conference Proceedings.

On Wednesday morning, USACE staff and consultants led attendees in an exercise to help develop a National Water Vision. The Vision will be used to determine common themes to develop into fundamental Guiding Principles. Find details at: http://www.building-collaboration-for-water.org, as well as, the Federal Support Toolbox for IWRM the group is also developing.

On Wednesday, the Colorado delegation was also well represented by a number of impressive oral presentations. Brett Gracely, Colorado Springs Utilities, discussed Past Success and Future Promise covering two decades of the Water Utility’s comprehensive IWRM process focus to further Conservation, Existing System Improvements, Non-Potable Development, and Major Delivery System (aka Southern Delivery System for which construction finally began this year). Bruce Lytle, Lytle Water Solutions, LLC, described how to Make the Most of Extremely Limited Water Supplies through a diverse portfolio, aquifer storage and recovery (ASR), and innovative reuse techniques. Hayden Strickland, Lytle Water Solutions, LLC, explained how the Cooperative Hydrology Study: COHYST 2010 – A Tool for Regional and Integrated Management improved understanding of hydrological and geological conditions in the Platte River Basin to better manage farming practices to optimize water use. William Hahn, Hahn Water Resources, LLC, presented Enhancing Platte River Flow in Nebraska through Intentional Recharge, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program’s use of intentional recharge of excess flow in times of shortage for threatened and endangered species recovery. Benjamin Moline, Molson Coors Brewing Company, shared how his brewery helped establish a Culture of Cooperation through the Upper Clear Creek Watershed Association (UCCWA) to meet the basin’s diverse demands. Margaret Herzog, CSU WRPM dissertation student, presented the Water Action Network, an online collaboration system to increase Colorado statewide public participation in furthering IWRM goals throughout the Water 2012 yearlong celebration and beyond.

The evening prior to the conference, Keith Hansen, General Manager of SLC Service Area #3, took attendees on a field trip of the Wasatch Drain Tunnel. Constructed in the early 1900s for silver mine shaft dewatering, the Wasatch Drain Tunnel was plugged in 1985 to store 35 MG of water from mountain snow. It serves as the water source for the Snowbird Ski Resort and Town of Alta, for snowmaking, and for power plant cooling. The water is treated at a water treatment plant within the mine tunnel to save building costs. Although other metals can be effectively removed, Antimony levels remain a problem, requiring blending with another source. Click here to see the See the Video

Attendees also learned how SLC Service Area #3 maintains stormwater runoff water quality throughout the resort by using ash, rather than salts, to deice roads and by replacing septic tanks with a sanitary sewer system for all but their most outlying customers. This stormwater then serves as a drinking water source for Salt Lake City.

You can download the Final Program, and View Conference Proceedings and even some of the Presentations at the Conference Website.  These links will be available publically immediately following the conference, but after a few months, they will require an AWRA login to access.

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