Support Water Conservation Proposal

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I support the water conservation recommendations of Town Manager Rich Underkofler to the Town Council at its April 26 meeting. Since 1980 Payson's population has been growing at the rate of over 50 percent per decade. According to conclusions of both the Town of Payson and the Southwest Groundwater Consultants studies, Payson will have a serious water crisis in the first half of the current decade if present growth trends continue and additional substantial water supplies are not available for use in Payson.

This water problem is exacerbated by continuing drought and increasing commercial and per-capita water use. On the basis of our experience to date in the water search in the national forest, there does not appear to be a quick solution for our water problem. Beside the results to date of such a search, there are a number of reasons for such a conclusion.

First, consider the role of the Forest Service in Payson's search. It has the responsibility for management of the national forest. That responsibility involves the preservation of the land and its resources such as trees, plants, water and wildlife. The Forest Service controls where Payson can explore for water and how much water Payson can take from the ground.

Secondly, if a promising source of water is discovered, others may contest Payson's appropriation of the water. If the Arizona legal doctrine of prior appropriation is applicable to Salt River Valley users such as Salt River Project and various Maricopa County cities, they may have a claim to the water that is superior to Payson's claim.

Various conservation organizations may initiate or become involved in litigation challenging Payson's use of the water. The quantity of water discovered may not be sufficient to justify expenditure of millions of dollars to bring it to Payson.

If all these problems are avoided the environmental impact statement process is time consuming and will substantially delay the arrival of new water in Payson.

I urge immediate adoption of the recommended water conservation measures. Early action is necessary because no one can tell exactly when a water crisis will occur. Such a crisis depends on a number of variables such as the amount of precipitation, changes in water usage, rate of population growth and timing of availability of new water resources. Immediate adoptions of the recommended changes may save Payson residents from more serious restrictions on water use, placing moratoriums on subdivision plat approvals and issuance of building permits and the extra expense of trucking water into Payson.

Jim Winter, Payson

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