Lake Powell

Water management is a longstanding topic of debate throughout the United States, but especially in desert environments like Arizona.

On Friday, Oct. 5 in Marana, lawmakers hosted a public forum on Arizona’s water future. Here in the Sonoran Desert, we have to make every drop count and we know we can’t do it alone. Like many other cities in the southwest, Tucson depends on Colorado River water for our businesses, communities and wildlife.  In fact, nearly half of Arizona’s water is provided by the Colorado River. Now, this vital lifeline is at risk.  

The Colorado River is over-tapped. More water is allocated to water users than the river can provide, thanks to higher temperatures and a nearly 20-year drought. The challenges we face in the Colorado River Basin could present real impacts to Arizona’s lifestyle and economic vitality. As members of the craft brewing community, we love to brew and drink beer and we are heartened that Arizona leaders are committed to keeping rivers and taps flowing with an agreement called the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan. 

Because beer is 90 percent water, craft breweries have a unique stake in this issue. Our reliance on water starts well before the brewing process begins. Water plays an essential role in the beer making process, beginning with the water farmers use to grow the crops needed to make beer. To put it simply, without adequate water, our industry would not be able to operate—we would not have local beer.

Over the past decade, beer makers have been fine-tuning our methods to become more sustainable— reducing water usage and recycling wherever possible. However, as our industry (and our state’s population) continues to grow, more collaboration among users and solutions will be required to keep beer flowing in drought years. 

The proposed drought plan is critical for our long-term water and economic security.  Arizona leaders have a long tradition of successfully managing our state’s most precious resource. They know that a reliable water supply is essential for the wellbeing of people, birds and other wildlife, and businesses. That means we must do our part to steward the Colorado River.   

The drought plan aims to reduce the risk of a catastrophic shortage in Colorado River water and protect Lake Mead’s elevation from dropping to critical levels. If reservoirs like Lake Mead drop too low, Arizona is in line to experience significant cutbacks. The Federal Government recently reported that there’s a 57 percent chance Lake Mead could dip to a shortage level that triggers cutbacks as soon as 2020. This will reduce our Colorado River water supply, which according to a recent study, accounts for over $180 Billion of Arizona’s economic output.  

Businesses need certainty to operate. Economic opportunities will be hard to come by when the future of Arizona water is uncertain. Thus, it is essential that we plan ahead to maintain adequate water supplies for our communities, our rivers, and the countless businesses that call Arizona home. 

Now is the time to come together around a plan to steward our water supplies.  Our message to lawmakers: Arizona’s craft brewers support the drought plan and are committed to doing our part to make the most of the resources we do have to keep the beer and our economy flowing!

Hank Rowe is the owner and founder of Catalina Brewing Company in Marana.

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