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WWRC 96-08
Retooling Western Water Management: The Park City Principles


Western water management faces increasingly difficult challenges from changing demands for water resources, including rapid urban growth, quantification of American Indian water rights, concern for instream and other environmental values, and protection of endangered species. Related challenges spring from the lack of support for new water projects, scarce public funds, conflicting and overlapping laws and programs, and polarized positions among competing parties. Water management systems are evolving rapidly, however, and the West is still trying to solve many new problems with established mechanisms that do some things very well, but are often unable to meet all current needs.

Under the leadership of Former North Dakota Governor George Sinner and Arizona Governor Fife Symingion, the Western Governors' Association (WGA) recently joined with the Western States Water Council (WSWC) to sponsor three workshops on western water management, held in Park City, Utah. The Ford Foundation provided funding support. The goal was to enhance the West's capacity to deal with the increasingly complex world of water. The workshops attempted to rethink the roles and relationships of different levels of government and their institutional missions and decision-making processes. A fourth program in California in 1993 addressed the states' capacity to carry out their projected roles, and a fifth program in Idaho in 1994 explored watershed management practices.

Each program brought together a diverse group of experts. Western and federal policy makers from the public and private sectors, representatives of state and federal agencies with water development and environmental protection responsibilities, tribes, local water utilities, environmental advocacy groups, waier user groups, and academia brought their perspectives to bear on the issues. A common denominator for the group was the dual awareness that in many western river basins the players are sophisticated enough to obstruct the plans of other users and that adversarial proceedings will not solve the present problems.

Workshop participants sought to improve water management systems' responses to complex and competing demands an consideration of the public interest. The group authored a set of guiding principles, an outline of effective water policies and institutions for implementing the principles, and criteria that should guide inquiries into the public interest. The aggregate product is called the "Park City Paradigm," a broadly supported vision of what western water management should look like and how it should function... .[T]he paradigm is embodied in a set of guiding principles known as "The Park City Principles."

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