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by Maxwell Wilson, PhD

Western water law is one of the most complicated topics in academia. However, the law, both as it is today and how it could be tomorrow, constrains what we can do and provides opportunities for action. As such, a working knowledge of water law is a critical component in the Friends of the Verde Rivers’ ability to protect the River we all hold dear.

With this in mind, a wide variety of Friends staff attended the 26th annual Arizona Water Law Conference from August 2nd to 3rd in Scottsdale. Though it was hard to leave the cool confines of the Verde Valley in the middle of summer, the collection of knowledge available on the agenda was invaluable and irresistible. By the end of the conference, we had learned something about nearly every topic in Arizona water law, from groundwater to surface water, Colorado River water rights to Tribal water rights, and everything in between.

However, the highlight of the event was a presentation by Friends’ consultants, Jocelyn Gibbon of Freshwater Policy Consulting, LLC and Amanda Cronin of AMP Insights, on the Verde River Exchange. Amanda and Jocelyn’s talk was one of the best attended of the conference, leading to a wide variety of questions from the crowd and compliments from other speakers. As a group, we were encouraged to hear several in the audience expound on how inspiring they found the Exchange as a solution that could protect groundwater and rivers across the state.

By the end of the conference, those of us who had traveled to Scottsdale knew the trip had been a success. Not only had we learned a great deal, but also our story of success in developing the Verde River Exchange had been presented as a novel solution that could be used to protect other endangered rivers. Though the temperatures had been hot, the iron had been too, leading to dozens of lessons and discussion along the way. As we drove back up the hill we couldn’t help but be proud of what we had accomplished over the two days of the conference and, more importantly, the past two years of growing the Verde River Exchange.

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