Freshwater leads state delegation to One Water Summit

In order to build new partnerships and identify shared goals, Freshwater led a Minnesota delegation to this year’s One Water Summit in Tucson, Arizona, held November 14-16. Organized by the US Water Alliance, the Summit is an opportunity for stakeholders across sectors to come together to learn and strategize about pressing challenges and emerging opportunities in sustainable water management.

Diverse perspectives
The Minnesota delegation represented community members, appointed officials, water utilities and nonprofit groups with diverse perspectives and relationships to water.

Our delegation had 24 attendees from the following groups: Environmental Justice Coordinating Council, Honor the Earth, Metropolitan Council, Saint Paul Regional Water Services, Freshwater and Ducks Unlimited.

“By building relationships with each other, listening and learning together, we were able to work across different perspectives and identify shared priorities for work we can do for water in Minnesota,” said Freshwater Executive Director Michelle Stockness.

Member of Minnesota delegation
L-R: Dr. Tyrone Carter, Metropolitan Council; Conor Varela Handley, Honor the Earth; Alyssa Fabia, Kris Meyer and Michelle Stockness, Freshwater; Renee Willette, US Water Alliance; Gina Peltier, Honor the Earth.

Commitment to action
The Minnesota Delegation will improve community engagement around regional water issues through education, communication and co-creation while committing to regular check-ins and facilitating the partnership between community, the public and private entities.

Next steps include scheduling quarterly meetings with the delegation, other U.S. Water Alliance members in Minnesota who couldn’t attend the summit, along with funders and supporters. It’s important to note that our attendance wouldn’t have been possible without organizational and financial assistance from supporters of each represented organization.

Recommendations for the next One Water Summit, likely to be held in the spring of 2025, include:

  • Return with a Minnesota Delegation to follow up on our commitments.
  • Consider hosting a peer learning session on specific work in Minnesota.
  • Coordinate attendance and funding for this conference early with local units of government and state agencies.
  • Hold a Minnesota Delegation breakfast on the first day to meet each other in person sooner.

Damone Presley, a Minnesota Delegate representing the Environmental Justice Coordinating Council, offered this comment upon return from the Summit: “I appreciate everyone, all of us who are in the fight and doing the work with all we bring to see communities and the environment live. Because without water, we will not survive.”

Priority focus areas
To help direct the delegation’s future work, members voted on 21 potential focus areas. The top priority areas are:

  • Priority 1: Improved community engagement.
  • Priority 2: Public communication and education on the value of water.
  • Priority 3 (tie): Public communication and education on water quality and public health risks.
  • Priority 3 (tie): Water workforce initiatives.

Freshwater has spent decades working on water education, communication and community engagement – and we recently launched a new Water Workforce Pathways initiative that connects across public and private sectors to increase visibility and access to jobs in the water industry. Partnering with delegation members on this work promises to be an exciting step forward.

One Water Summit delegation
Members of the Minnesota delegation gather at the One Water Summit closing reception. Clockwise from front left: Michelle Stockness, Freshwater; Dr. Tyrone Carter and Gail Cederberg, Metropolitan Council; Racquel Vaske, St. Paul Regional Water Services; Kris Meyer, Freshwater; Conor Varela Handley and Gina Peltier, Honor the Earth; Alyssa Fabia, Freshwater; Kartumu King and Damone Presley, Environmental Justice Coordinating Council.

Visit to San Xavier Co-op Farm
Freshwater delegates Kris Meyer and Alyssa Fabia had the opportunity to visit San Xavier Co-op Farm, owned and operated by members of the Tohono O’odham Nation. The San Xavier Cooperative Association is committed to healthy farming practices and growing traditional crops to support cultural and environmental values, as well as to support economic development within the community.

Accompanied by farm manager Duran Andrews, attendees toured the farm, delving into its day-to-day operations and historical background. Andrews also shed light on the farm’s future objectives, considering factors such as water availability and climate challenges. The tour showed how the farm intends to evolve and persevere, following in the footsteps of the many generations of Tohono O’odham who have thrived in similar conditions before them.

San Xavier Co-op Farm tour
One Water Summit attendees visited the San Xavier Co-op Farm outside of Tucson.