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High Impact Colorado Drought Plan Held Back by Conflict – Can Mediation Help Design Deals that are Built to Last?

A dispute between an Indian tribe and lawmakers threatens to hold back a huge deal that could potentially affect millions of people. The greater agreement – a three state plan to stop Mead lake water from falling to critically low levels – would be stalled by the dispute between Arizona lawmakers, the Gila Indian tribe and farmers. Water deals cover a huge range of special interests with different histories, rights and water needs. If that’s the case how is it possible to come to an agreement that suits everyone? It seems a legal decision is just not enough to stem conflict: the Gila Indian tribe has said the Arizona legislation derails rights given to them by a previous ruling. It also seems that the most important players – such as legislators – have not been talking to interest groups or are stuck between representing the needs of different groups. The Arizona House Speaker has said the water bill and larger deal are unconnected – in mediation sessions it’s understood that conflict histories are often deeply rooted and interconnected. Mediation helps to identify the perspectives leading to conflict.

Design Means Planning for Success AND Failure

It may seem as if conflict resolution drives towards successful outcomes at all times, but well-designed agreements may come with failsafe clauses. In this case we see what happens if legislators, who have an undeniable duty to the people they represent, draft laws in isolation of a broader context.  When plans go forward based on shaky compromises or divisive court rulings, with no planning for failure or change, future conflict may break out. But what if agreements could be designed carefully by accommodating for future differences? A group of farmers feel they are losing out financially because of an early court ruling that favored the Gila Indian tribe. Could water mediation be designed with an agreement to re-enter talks if a party feels they are losing out? At Boileau Conflict Solutions, we use mathematical tools such as game theory that can identify interests early and anticipate future conflict, allowing us to design more flexible agreements.

Involve Everyone

Designing good agreements means consulting everyone relevant. Getting everyone to the table isn’t easy, but giving people the opportunity to have their voices heard is the only way of making those with vastly different interests feel respected. And feeling respected is a huge antidote to conflict. Involving all relevant parties is also necessary for information gathering. Parties – especially decision-makers — need relevant information to understand each other’s positions very clearly and thoroughly.

Mediation’s Role in Water Conflicts

In water conflicts, mediation can:

  • Involve parties by giving them a voice and facilitate a process designed to suit everyone
  • Address urgent concerns like dropping water levels by fast-tracking conflict resolution (mediation is a process designed to resolve quickly)
  • Work with the deeper emotional undercurrents of historical conflicts, such as the conflict between oppressed indigenous people and white farmers to transform suspicion into understanding and cooperation
  • Use mediators who have expert knowledge that is relevant to the conflict (a mediator doesn’t necessarily have to be a lawyer)
  • Help parties with no knowledge of each other’s position find common ground to cooperate now and in the future (especially important with conflicts over a common resource like water)
  • Facilitate an information gathering process by involving all parties, presenting legislators and major players with a fuller picture to be informed and make better laws

How We Can Help

We are a group of well-educated mediators and negotiators with financial, legal, and psychological backgrounds who can analyze your land or water conflict, and provide win-win solution sets through analysis, consultation, mediation, or negotiation. Water is the basis for survival, so conflicts can quickly become emotional. We recognize that conflicts about water rights can have deep historical roots and require a thorough analysis of sustainable solutions, drawing on the knowledge of experts and parties alike By employing careful scientific, mathematical, and legal knowledge, recognizing the important values and interests of all stakeholders, and utilizing practical techniques informed by game theory, psychology, and solid strategic and tactical techniques, we can help any and all parties achieve their goals. This approach to conflict avoids costly and protracted litigation, creates sustainable solutions, and develops long-lasting relationships that can pave the way for increased co-operation and better policy on water management and rights. Conflicts over water come in a wide variety of forms: water quality, grazing rights, stream rights, usage rights, community rights, groundwater and surface water and drainage conflicts to name just a few. We can mediate any and all conflicts all over water, saving money and crafting solutions build to last for both individuals and the community. You can visit us at our offices in Campbell, CA, Irvine, CA and San Diego, CA. We can also be reached by Telephone, Zoom or Facetime. Mediation can be arranged either in person or remotely. We are available 7 days a week and at urgent notice. Please contact us to see how we can help.

Read More: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-environment/2019/02/15/colorado-river-drought-dispute-puts-arizona-deal-gila-river-indian-community/2875312002

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