Water and sustainability experts throughout the Western U.S. met in Vegas in August for a three-day conference titled – The Business of Water 2.0 – A Corporate Leaders’ Summit on Water and the Economy – to discuss the severely challenged health of the Colorado River, relentless drought conditions and how diverse stakeholders must work together to advance responsible water policy with a focus on incentivizing innovation efficiency and conservation. 

Arizona was represented statewide with several organizations attending, including Arizona Forward President & CEO Diane Brossart, who applauded Protect the Flows, a coalition of businesses vested in maintaining and protecting a healthy Colorado River system for presenting the forum, which drew upwards of 200 attendees. “It was a meaningful venue for sharing best practices and case studies around multi-stakeholder partnerships including, corporations, utilities and non-governmental organizations to promote water efficiency, conservation and stewardship,” she said.

Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science for the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) delivered keynote addresses. Presenters included: Pat Mulroy, Senior Fellow, Brookings Mt. West and Desert Research Institute; Donald Colvin, Chief Financial Officer, Caesars Entertainment; Jeff Kightlinger, General Manager, Metropolitan Water District; Julie Pastrick, President & CEO, Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce; Pamela Pickard, Board President, Central Arizona Project; Rod Taylor, Regional Vice President, Forever Living Resorts; John Entsminger, General Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority; Jim Lochhead, CEO/General Manager, Denver Water; Bruce Hallin, Director of Water Rights and Contracts, Salt River Project; and several others.

A few takeaways:

“The economies of the Western States are interconnected. We must give up the notion of winners and losers. There is no opportunity for any one state to serve itself. It’s not about (water) rights – it’s about a shared responsibility. Only cooperation will get us through what we’re facing – it’s survival. We cannot point fingers across the River. We must each ask ourselves, what can my region bring to the table?” – Pat Mulroy, Senior Fellow, Brookings Mt. West and Desert Research Institute

“There is a human connection to rivers – they are key to our economy and environment. It is key for the business community to sustain the discussion and educate about the myths, support political leaders that recognize the complexity of the system and who understand the importance of healthy rivers.” Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science for the U.S. Department of Interior

“Temperatures are rising, climate change and drought is continuing. Working together is our only hope – burdens and challenges are mounting. The Colorado River is running dry and our windows are short. We are all stakeholders and we must all get involved.“ U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)

“Water is connected to everything. We must all commit do something at the corporate level  to facilitate collaboration among partners; balance supply and demand; understand risks and the implications of climate change; refocus on effective solutions; and encourage broader participation by all sectors, including the business community. ” – Dr. Peter Gleick, President, Pacific Institute

“We represent the largest gaming organization in the world and understand that tangible investments make sense from a financial perspective. We’ve invested in more than $70 million in corporate energy and water projects since 2004. We have one of the top five laundry facilities in North America. Our annual savings on these initiatives total $50 billion per year.” – Donald Calvin, Chief Financial Officer, Caesars Entertainment

“We took a half-million acre feet of water out of Lake Mead storage last year. This year, we’re taking one-million acre feet. This year is challenging. Next year is scary.” Jeff Kightlinger, General Manager, Metropolitan Water District