Water is the issue that dominates life in the Rim country, and according to a new study for good reason.
The town water department is about to release a 200-plus page groundwater management status report, and it's not good news. While water production is up by 1,313 gallons per minute to a total of 3,433 since 1997, consumption is also up.
Payson water customers are using 38 percent more water than they did four years ago, much of it reflected in an unprecedented increase in consumption during the winter months.
According to town hydrologist Mike Ploughe, who authored the study, current rates of consumption will significantly impact the number of people the town can provide with water.
It would almost be better, Public Works Director Buzz Walker said, if Payson had a surface lake that is slowly drying up. "That might help people visualize the water situation." Lacking such a reminder, the town council will consider several recommendations, including raising water rates until we finally get the message.
But there is a less painful answer. This Saturday, the High Country Xeriscape Council of Arizona is sponsoring the Water-Wise Landscape and Garden Festival, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Julia Randall Elementary School.
Since outdoor watering accounts for about 40 percent of all water use, and an established, properly maintained xeriscape takes only about one-third the water of a traditional landscape, xeriscaping is an alternative that can make a huge difference.
Ploughe says the town is doing all it can to increase the water supply, including rehabilitating existing wells and pursuing new water on federal land.
But new water is expensive, and the costs are passed on to taxpayers and water customers. Xeriscaping, while not free, can go a long way toward reducing consumption and keeping our future on track.