Certainly, no one seeks a seat on the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) board of directors for fame or financial gain. An unpaid position, involving long meetings and difficult choices, it’s also one of those races on the ballot that too few voters know much about.
Ironically, all the other hotly debated issues that fill the media could conceivably become moot, if our water resources are not managed properly. Managing our Colorado River supplies and the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal is the responsibility of this 15-member board, and this year, five of those seats are up for grabs November 8.
As Arizona citizens we have certainly become wiser and more acutely aware of the impending problems we face in our desert with regards to water, and finding viable solutions might seem overwhelming. Which is all the more reason we need to make sure that we elect people who are not only knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate about this issue, but also those who have the ability to contribute innovative ideas.
Alexandra Arboleda is just that person. Her extensive experience in water and natural resources law includes working on the Colorado River, surface water and groundwater issues. She has also practiced in the areas of Indian, environmental and constitutional law.
“The reason I’m running for this board seat is really twofold,” she says. “First, I care about water and the future of Arizona. I grew up in Arizona and enjoyed camping, hiking, and horseback riding, so I got to see just how important water is in this arid climate. It became a true passion of mine.
“The other reason is, I think I bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the board,” she continues. “In addition to my law degree, I understand water rights, a very complex area of the law.”
Arboleda has over a decade of experience in water law, representing such clients as the city of Flagstaff , Salt River Project, which is both a water provider and utility, and the state of Arizona. She has also represented farms, homeowners associations, tribes and environmental nonprofits.
“What I’ve gained from this, I believe, is a balanced perspective,” she says. “So I can see these issues from various viewpoints. That is certainly advantageous when trying to come up with pragmatic and creative solutions. You have to be able to understand where all the various interest groups are coming from and what their needs are.
“There are three major issues facing the board right now,” she says, “and one of the most obvious is drought. We are currently in the longest drought in recorded history on the Colorado River system. In addition to that, we have a situation where we are over-allocated. Which means, even if we weren’t in a drought, we’re using more water than the river is producing every year. One of the things we’re doing is negotiating with California and Nevada, to find sustainable solutions.
“The second issue is growth,” Arboleda continues. “We need to make sure that we are growing wisely to ensure that we continue to have a thriving economy and a good quality of life.
“Energy is one of the most important issues facing the board,” she adds. “With the CAP being the largest user of electricity in the state, it’s important that energy choices are diverse and include clean energy sources.”
A graduate of Stanford University, with a degree in political science, she studied for a semester in South America where she attended Universidad Catolica de Chile. After completing her undergraduate studies, Arboleda taught second grade in Honduras.
“During that time, my interest grew concerning environmental issues,” she says. “That, coupled with my interest in politics and government led me to decide on a law career.”
Attending the University of Arizona, College of Law on a full scholarship, Arboleda received her Juris Doctor in 1995, and during the summer of 1993, studied international law at the Universidad de Costa Rica.
For over a decade, Arboleda has practiced law in Arizona, specializing in water and natural resources issues. Arboleda decided to step back from her law career for a few years beginning in 2006 to concentrate on raising her two children. Still, she remained involved in her community and was active in her children’s schools.
It became apparent that she is a woman of many talents, when Arboleda chose to explore her interest as a writer with a book project about water policy in the southwest called, “Water Voices.” She also published articles in Raising Arizona Kids Magazine and taught law and logic at BASIS Phoenix charter school.
“Now that I have kids of my own,” says Arboleda, “I’m especially concerned about making sustainable water choices for all Arizona families and for our future generations.”
Currently, Arboleda is of counsel with The Storey Lawyers where she has focused on water and natural resources law.
“We’re thrilled to have Alex on our team,” notes partner Lee Storey. “Better than most, we and our clients know just how truly qualified, and sorely needed she is for this board seat.”