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Shining the light on historic water shortages

The Irrigation Association’s second annual drought summit was co-hosted this year with the National Ground Water Association in conjunction with the 2016 Irrigation Show and Education Conference. The summit brought together key stakeholders and industry leaders for an interactive dialogue on water use during drought.

Pat Mulroy was the featured speaker. Mulroy is a senior fellow in climate adaptation and environmental policy at the William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and former general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Mulroy spoke on the theme of change and unity to achieve change. “We need to adapt to conditions as they exist on the ground,” she said.

In the next five years, it is predicted that 50 percent more food will be needed to keep up with the growing population. This means there will be an 80 percent increase in demand for water and energy. However, with less accessible water, solutions need to be a priority.

“All solutions have to be on the table and have to be taken seriously,” Mulroy said. “That diversity of options is our only hope.”

She went on to commend the IA and NGWA for working to find alternate water solutions and sharing the message that conservation is not always the way.

“If we can’t find ways to develop co-equal goals that will forge a pathway, we’re in trouble,” Mulroy said, encouraging more groups to become strategic partners.

The summit also featured a panel discussion on perspectives on drought and water management. The five panelists echoed Mulroy’s charge for unity and openness.

“People are resilient and are always looking for ways to adapt,” said Conrad Weaver, director of the documentary Thirsty Land. Jeff Stone, executive director/CEO of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, agreed, saying we have the opportunity now to find new solutions by working with associations and interest groups.

The panel also discussed infrastructure and how the systems of the 19th and 20th centuries are not what’s efficient in the 21st century. The group agreed that we need a balance of maintaining existing and creating new infrastructure – but questioned how to deal with the legalities of that. They also discussed breaking past the stigma that because we have an infrastructure, why is it necessary to spend money on a new one?

Education and awareness seemed to be the consensus to that problem. The more educational offerings, the more people understand what is happening, the more they can make informed decisions on approving spending for infrastructure and solutions to help solve our water crisis.

A full report of the drought summit will be available in early 2017.

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