Think tank aims to bolster water planning

Policy group helps communities make the most of scarce resource

An Arizona think tank is looking to the Western Slope for ways to demonstrate how best to tie together land-use and water planning — lessons that could be used elsewhere.

The Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, a newly formed arm of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is looking for local communities it can help in developing best practices, build data and mapping tools, and take other steps to better manage water and land.

The center plans to work at first in Arizona and in Colorado “and then we’ll expand basinwide,” said Jim Holway, executive director of the center, the formation of which was announced on Tuesday.

“Ultimately, it is hoped that the Babbitt Center will become a hub that connects the people and practices of the arid American West to people and practices in the rest of the world,” the center said. “By 2025, the United Nations predicts that 1.8 billion people — nearly one-quarter of the planet’s population by that time — will be living in regions with severe water scarcity.”

The center was named for the former Arizona governor and secretary of the Interior under President Bill Clinton, Bruce Babbitt, who served eight years on the board of the Lincoln Institute.

Colorado is on the right track with a 2015 law that ties together land use and water planning, SB 15-008, and includes a goal that by 2025, 75 percent of Coloradans will live in communities that have integrated water resources into land-use planning.

The Lincoln Institute has a long history in land-use planning and has recently branched out into other areas branching out of that, Holway said.

Holway is a former assistant director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and he serves on the board of the Central Arizona Project.

Sophisticated techniques used by the Chesapeake Bay Conservancy to pinpoint sources of water pollution could be used in the West to learn more about water availability, said Paula Randolph of the center. Randolph is a Grand Junction native.

Communities that use the center’s services can seek their own answers on water and land use, Randolph said.

“We want to help,” she said, “We don’t want to dictate.”

The Babbitt Center will work with a pilot community in Arizona, then seek one out in western Colorado.

The Lincoln Institute was founded by John C. Lincoln, a Cleveland industrialist and investor who established the Lincoln Foundation in Phoenix in 1946.


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