Drying Out In The Rim Country

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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It's already the Fourth of July, as another dry summer flies by. The town plans to go ahead with the annual fireworks display, ignoring my alternate idea -- to borrow a page from Sammy Sosa and shoot corks into the air. They may not be as colorful as fireworks, but they sure say "festive" on New Year's Eve.

It's interesting that Sosa got caught at a time when cork is in short supply around the world. In fact, winemakers are scrambling to find a substitute that retains some of cork's attributes.

Of course, Arizonans have never worried about conserving commodities in short supply. Water comes to mind.

At a time when the West is locked in the throes of a drought that may have a decade or more to run, we go through water like it's, well, water -- water in

the Midwest, that is, where aquifers are literally underground lakes instead of cracks in the granite.

Part of the problem, according to Chris Jones, University of Arizona extension agent assigned to Gila County, is that many people don't make the transition from living in the true forests of places like Oregon and Michigan to the Tonto National Forest. While the Tonto appears similarly green, it's actually, Jones says, more akin to the desert than to the forests we knew and loved wherever we came from.

And of course what goes on down in the Valley is little short of obscene, with per capita water consumption almost three times what it is in Payson and some 400 golf courses kept green by surface water stolen from the Rim country and points north by Salt River Project.

Everybody has a favorite story about water-wasting, so "Around the Rim Country" is proud to present a new feature based loosely on David Letterman's Stupid Pet Tricks. Of course we call it Stupid Water Tricks.

To get the spigot flowing, we called town water resource specialist Jeff Durbin, a man who has surely seen his share of stupid water tricks.

Durbin chose to make his nominations in the class action category. They include:

  • "We've got a rash of people right now who want to plant new yards. That's driving us crazy."

This despite the fact that the town's new water conservation ordinance prohibits new grass or turf areas after March 1, 2003.

  • "There are certain hotels in town that water all day long. We can't get them to stop."
  • "People on private wells who irrigate all day long."
  • Charity car washes. The new ordinance recommends holding such events at regular car washes and/or using only hoses equipped with positive cutoffs.

Of course, it's the stupid water tricks performed by individuals that are the most, well, stupid. For starters, we nominate:

  • The Mesa del Caballo woman who let her hose spew water onto the ground while she merrily scrubbed the tire treads on an 18-wheeler.
  • The McDonald's employee and his supervisor who were madly hosing down the trash area behind the restaurant -- an act that went on so long it must have used at least 1,000 gallons.
  • The Payson woman who let her kids play in the hose for at least two hours one recent afternoon.
  • The Beaver Valley Fire Department which allowed children to squirt fire hoses into the air during a recent open house.

But the Rim country doesn't have the market cornered on stupid water tricks.

Roundup reporter Kelly Crowley recently wrote about:

  • A neighbor in Flagstaff who sucked their common groundwater source dry trying to grow fruit trees not suited for their microclimate.

And a friend told us about:

  • A Scottsdale resident who refuses to conserve water because his neighbor lets it run down the street.

Durbin summed it up thus: "In the summertime, half of our water use is outdoor use, and there are a lot of people out there just not using their heads right now."

The water department will send a speaker to your homeowners association or other group meeting to share water saving ideas and tips.

Scott Stratton, the town's new water resource technician, will even come out to your home to make sure you're watering properly and otherwise help you do a better job of conserving. Call the water department at 474-5242, ext. 4.

"Our focus is on education, not enforcement," Durbin said.

Here's hoping you can teach an old dog new tricks.

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