Scottsdale played host this week to a major symposium aimed at creating more flexible and detailed management plans for the Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to much of the Western United States, including Arizona.
The goal of the symposium was to develop oversight plans for the basin that can be adapted based on new research and continuous monitoring, said Leslie Gordon, U.S. Geological Survey spokeswoman.
Previously, the U.S. Department of the Interior developed static management plans based on finite studies, she said.
Gordon said participants discussed drought and climate change, as well.
"There are trends that we're observing, not only warmer, but drier. The important thing is to be aware that it is changing and will continue to change," she said. "There's still a lot of uncertainty exactly how it will play out."
The Colorado River Basin extends south from Wyoming through Arizona and contains parts of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
The river provides water for drinking and agriculture to those states. It includes the Grand Canyon, as well as Phoenix and Las Vegas.
The Valley gets much of its water from the Colorado River via the Central Arizona Project canal.
A portion of the canal runs through Scottsdale and on to other Valley cities.
The event attracted about 300 scientists, policymakers, environmental managers and representatives of nongovernmental organizations.
It was the first major formal event of its kind related to the basin, she said.
"They're all getting together and talking about how we can collectively make the best decisions on managing the Colorado River Basin and understanding the diverse demands," Gordon said.
Major issues included determining how to balance power generation, water consumption and recreation with environmental protection.
Other topics included studying fish populations, the effects of sedimentation on river channels and how to combat non-native species like the quagga mussel.
Jeff Humphrey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman, said that the mussels are prolific and can eat all of the microorganisms that serve as the base of the food chain in the river network's ecosystem.
They also attach to hard surfaces and can disrupt the functioning of hydroelectric power plants and canals.
"Engineering and economically, what is the effect of this mussel going to be as they gum up the works?" Humphrey said.
The symposium, at the Doubletree Paradise Valley Resort/Scottsdale, was an opportunity for scientists to get together with policymakers to see which management technologies have been effective throughout the basin, he said.
"That hasn't been done in the past," Humphrey said.