Gov. Stephen Lewis attends Water Summit at the White House as part of World Water Day
April 1, 2016
Gila River Indian News
As part of World Water Day, a Water Summit was held at the White House, March 22, to direct attention to water issues, foster ideas and formulate action in the face of climate change.
Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis was the only tribal leader invited to speak at the Water Summit, where he discussed the Community’s innovative partnership with the Salt River Project to store the Community’s unused Central Arizona Project water to create long-term storage credits for sale. Under this initiative the Community is able to partner with neighbors in the Phoenix-metro and central Arizona to meet some of their water supply needs, but in a manner that affords the Community the maximum flexibility to ensure its water supply needs are prioritized while generating revenue to establish the Community’s permanent water fund.
Gov. Lewis also discussed the Community’s managed aquifer recharge site. “This facility, and future facilities like it, not only restore riparian habitat in the Gila River, but also recharge our underground aquifer ensuring that we have a healthy groundwater supply that can be used for agricultural purposes,” said Lewis.
During the Water Summit federal and state officials from seven states discussed ways to reserve Colorado River Basin water During the drought discussion regarding the Colorado River Basin Gov. Lewis expressed frustration that federal officials had not involved tribes in these discussions sooner.
“We want to be at the table. At our hearts, we’re stewards of the land. When we start talking about innovation, we have very innovative solutions to water management,” Lewis said.
“The feds think the tribes are working with the states and the states think the feds are working with and speaking for the tribes.” Lewis said. “Neither happens and the tribes get left out. We have no more time left. We all look forward to being proactive and working together in a collaborative fashion.”
The Community controls the largest individual share of CAP water, 311,800 acre-feet, and is concerned that a plan to reduce CAP water deliveries to conserve water in Lake Mead could disproportionally impact the Community.
The White House stated in a news release, that the Water Summit was partly in response to recent events, including the water-quality crisis in Flint, Mich., drought in the West, and flooding in the Southeast. On a more national level, the White House said many communities across the United States facing water challenges have cost the country billions of dollars and affected millions of people’s lives. Additionally, communities affected the most typically have a minority population, are poor, and live in rural areas.
In response to these issues, which also span the globe, over 150 external institutions joined the U.S. Federal government in announcing new endeavors to further improve water sustainability in the U.S. through improved water resource and infrastructure management.
A few of the endeavors, according to the White House news release, are listed below;
- Nearly $4 billion in private capital committed to investment in a broad range of water-infrastructure project nationwide.
- More than $1 billion from the private sector over the next decade to conduct research and development into new technologies.
- A Presidential Memorandum and supporting Action Plan on building national capabilities for long-term drought resilience in the U.S.
- Nearly $25 million this year in Federal grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and the U.S. department of Agriculture to support cutting-edge water science.
- Release of a new National Water Model that will enhance the Nation’s river-forecasting capabilities.