Council Must Do The Right Thing For Future

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The Payson Town Council will convene at 5 p.m. this evening to take another look at the issue of safe yield.

The concept, which basically means we will take out of the ground only the amount of water that is being replenished so we're not living on borrowed time, has been a guiding philosophy of the town for many years.

So far, it has been pretty painless to live up to as guiding philosophies go. In 1990, the town was at 55 percent of safe yield. But that was then and this is now.

The 2003 Water Resources Management Status Report, that was just published, shows that the town reached 99 percent of safe yield in 2002 -- up from 90 percent in 2001. Growth, of course, is one factor, but so are a relentlessly increasing rate of consumption and a protracted drought that may not run its course for many years.

Town hydrologist Mike Ploughe put it this way: "We're at 99 percent of safe yield as of the end of last year, and to date the town council has been taking the line that we do not want to go over safe yield, so certain things are going to have to be done to make sure that doesn't happen this year."

So far, the council has been doing, more or less, the right things.

A new water conservation ordinance, which recently took effect, is based on the previous year's precipitation rather than the amount of water the town can pump out of the ground and store. A new water rate increase is aimed at heavy users, and a low-use toilet exchange program is an example of a more aggressive conservation program.

Meanwhile the town continues to pursue its limited options for new sources of water.

But this is the first time the council has had to confront the safe yield philosophy with no margin for error -- and it's coming amidst some grumblings that maybe the time has come for a new guiding philosophy.

We urge the council to do the right thing -- to look at the big picture and consider all of the ramifications of abandoning the concept of safe yield. Staying the course may not be a popular decision but it is the right decision, and that will be the ultimate measure of this council's legacy.

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