Growing Water Smart Helps Arizona Communities Thrive in the Face of Long-term Drought

Arizona’s communities will soon have new tools to ensure local resilience and address uncertainty about water availability. Thanks to a partnership between two non-profit organizations, the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Sonoran Institute, a series of innovative workshops that had success in Colorado will soon be offered in Arizona.

The application window for the Growing Water Smart workshops is open now, and municipal officials responsible for making decisions related to water use and land planning are encouraged to apply.

Population growth and the impacts of a hotter and drier climate in Arizona have created significant uncertainty about water availability in the coming decades, requiring local jurisdictions to reevaluate water issues and to assume new leadership roles in ensuring community resilience.

Most of the costs to attend the three-day workshops are covered for participants, which provide elected and appointed officials, land planners and water providers from Arizona communities with a full spectrum of planning, policy implementation, communications and public engagement tools to realize their water and watershed resiliency goals. Topical and team-based action planning sessions are focused on meeting a number of land use and water efficiency goals, as well as gaining practical skills to lead the process to become more water smart—even as communities grow.

Participants gain tools to collaborate among multiple disciplines, agencies and people involved in water and land use decisions. Teams collaboratively determine a path forward, increase commitment, and gain clarity to take specific actions that will allow them to immediately put knowledge into practice.

“This program has only been available for a couple years, but we’ve already seen the impact it can make on communities, how they plan for the future, and what they can do now to realize those plans related to growth, and responsible land and water management,” said Jeremy Stapleton, Director of Climate Resilience for the Sonoran Institute. “Offering Arizona communities the tools to plan for the reality of our water future will make our state stronger. Having action plans that impact everyone in the community, and touch on related issues like transportation, air quality and equity all leads to better overall outcomes.”

Jim Holway of the Babbitt Center agreed.

“We have already seen the positive impact this type of planning has in a collaborative environment and it is exciting to have the opportunity to introduce it to Arizona’s communities,” he said. “We look forward to seeing measurable progress in these engaged communities, and we are eager to see how plans and ideas implemented now will affect the future.”

James Dickoff of Pagosa Springs participated in a Colorado workshop in 2017. He said the workshop opened his team’s eyes to critical gaps in its planning efforts.

“Now, our local governments and service providers are seeking to use a common set of data and growth projections in our planning efforts,” he said. “We expect this collaboration will expand to other issues in our community.”

The workshops also prompted Pagosa Springs officials to revise the town’s growth projections and meet regularly with residents for long-term planning.

Teams of five to seven water and land use decision makers serving Arizona cities, towns, counties, tribes and water providers are invited to apply for the Growing Water Smart workshops through the Sonoran Institute by August 2, 2019. Teams should include land use planners, water managers, elected and appointed officials and others needed to secure the community’s water future.

The next Growing Water Smart workshop is scheduled for February 5-7, 2020. Participating teams will be eligible to apply for follow-up technical assistance in implementing their action plans developed at the workshop.

For more information about Growing Water Smart, please visit our page on Resilient Communities and Watersheds, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter or contact