At long last there was good news about the water situation in Pine and Strawberry.
The Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District announced last week that a new hydrogeologic study had discovered enough water to potentially last the two communities well into the future. They invited residents to a meeting Saturday where geologist Michael B. Kaczmarek explained what he found and how to go about getting it.
About 200 parched residents, thirsty for any good news about their water woes, sat through a sweltering two-hour presentation. Unfortunately, Salt River Project also showed up and admonished the presenters to be wary of the water rights of others.
For those unfamiliar with the situation, the Rim country and much of the rest of northern Arizona has plenty of water. It just doesn't belong to us.
Thanks to antiquated state water laws and the National Reclamation Act of 1902, SRP owns all the surface water rights from a 13,000-square-mile watershed that supplies two-thirds of the nearly one million acre-feet of water delivered each year to SRP customers in central Arizona -- including many of the Valley's hundreds of lush golf courses.
That watershed includes Payson, Prescott, Flagstaff, Show Low and vast areas around and in between. The entire Tonto National Forest, SRP claims, "was created to reserve portions of the Salt River and Verde River watersheds from entry in order to protect and ensure that the water resources from this region would be available for use by the water users and shareholders of the Salt River Federal Reclamation Project."
Of late, SRP has been attempting to extend its jurisdiction to groundwater, claiming a mystical connection exists between surface water and water pumped out of the ground. SRP gave the town fits over the lakes at Green Valley Park and is trying to keep the town from drilling exploratory wells in the Mayfield Canyon area of the Tonto National Forest.
Ask our local leaders why they aren't fighting back and they say, "You can't fight Arizona's water laws," or, "If we're real nice to SRP and show them how mature we can be, they will eventually let us sit down at the table with them."
What SRP is doing to northern Arizona is a moral outrage, and attending the Pine-Strawberry meeting is the last straw.
Maybe we can't fight SRP's stable of lawyers, but we can lobby everybody in sight -- from the governor to our elected national leaders. We can unite with the other towns and communities that are being raped by SRP to form a potent political lobby.
We need to be all over this issue on every front imaginable. If our current leaders are unwilling to go after SRP, let's make sure the next county supervisor and town council we elect are.