National Water Resources Association--by Chris Treese, Colorado River Water Conservation District

One way that Colorado water managers and planners participate in federal water-related processes is through the National Water Resources Association (NWRA). The NWRA is an association of 17 western states whose mission is the conservation, enhancement, and efficient management of water. The NWRA is the oldest and most active national association addressing water resources policy and development. Its strength derives from the grassroots participation it generates on national issues affecting western water conservation, management, and development. The Colorado Water Congress (CWC) is Colorado’s official member of NWRA, and through its membership, CWC members send and receive information on changing priorities, funding proposals, and regulatory initiatives.
 
The NWRA has recently undergone some major changes. In 2013, the two largest and most populace states in the west, California and Texas, withdrew from the organization causing a financial and organizational crisis for NWRA. Other state members expressed concerns with the NWRA’s internal management, lack of bi-partisan advocacy, and limited communication with its members. As a result, conference attendance was in decline and projections showed that over half of the NWRA’s financial reserves would be lost by the end of 2013 and could be entirely depleted by 2015.

Recognizing that NWRA’s strength and voice has always come from its membership, member states came together to plan for an NWRA future that includes improved communications, broader legislative and regulatory advocacy, and sustainable organizational funding. The result was a new Strategic Plan, a change in leadership, and a consolidation of resources.

At NWRA’s annual meeting the board approved: the new Strategic Plan; A multi-year management contract with Water Strategies that features the team of Bob Johnson (former commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation) as CEO and Kris Polly (former Legislative Liaison for Reclamation and previous 15-year employee of NWRA); a new headquarters office located within a few blocks of the U.S. Capitol; and a new, tiered dues structure(Colorado’s dues will increase from $16,000 to $20,000).

Recognizing the new directions for the NWRA, California and Texas have each voted to return as full due-paying members. With their return and other significant structural changes affecting the budget, the NWRA will have a balanced budget in 2014 and a brighter future.

Constructively, the focus now is on the role Colorado will play in NWRA’s future. Colorado has always been an active and influential member of the Association. From the inception of the CWC, its founders believed Colorado’s participation in a western water organization providing a federal voice was critical. In fact, the first discussion topic at the CWC’s organizational meeting in 1958 was Colorado’s federal presence. That presence is just as important today.


Colorado’s water community has an opportunity to participate meaningfully in the many federal policies and programs that affect us all. The CWC encourages all of its members to participate in the NWRA through their Federal Affairs Committee. The CWC recognizes the time challenges we all face; accordingly, its Federal Affairs Committee meets monthly and provides telephone and web participation in those meetings. For additional information on NWRA and the CWC contact Doug Kemper, Executive Director, 303 837-0812 or www.cowatercongress.org.