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Solutions and Strength Through Collaboration and Compromise

The price of failure will be too great not to find solutions.

Pat Mulroy, General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority gave a riveting keynote speech at the annual meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association, The Colorado River, America’s New Heartland: Reflections on a Quarter-Century.   She spoke of the Colorado River Basin developing a new culture by making a transformation from conflict to collaboration.

She reflected back to the 1990s when the basin’s interests were holding firm to long-held beliefs.  Learning and respecting each states interests and objectives ultimately overcame stalemate.  Posturing gave way to finding solutions.  Common ground was found.  Productive relationships developed.  The work product is substantial: Quantification Settlement Agreement, Interim Surplus Guidelines, 2007 Shortage Sharing Agreement and Minute 319.

Ms. Mulroy also spoke about “women in water.”  She shared her counsel to young women.  Be a woman.  The different perspectives of men and women can be combined to generate sounder solutions.

The region still faces many challenges.  Weather variability means that water managers must plan for the “worst case”, a perspective well illustrated by the low runoff in the basin and reservoirs falling to unprecedented low levels.  A policy of reliable water supply cannot be based on hopes about bountiful snowfall and runoff.  The basin must confront the next challenge of developing 5 million acre feet of new water supplies, which will involve more than desalination.

The price of failure will be too great not to find solutions.  The urgency needed to find solutions means that a secure future will not be found in litigation.

She urged her colleagues to continue on their new pathway.  Collaboration and compromise are the tools for finding durable solutions.   They are expressions of strength, not weakness.

In an era of partisanship and gridlock, Ms. Mulroy believes that the Colorado River Basin is America’s New Heartland.  The commitment to our nation’s founding principles and problem solving makes the basin a special place.

Ms. Mulroy wrapped up her speech with expressions of gratitude to individuals who shaped her personal development.  Also, on more than one occasion, Ms. Mulroy expressed her confidence in “Vegas showgirls over the Arizona Navy.”

Written by Rodney T. Smith, Ph.D.