Is Shaming Water Wasters Real Solution?



A modern scarlet letter?

Has Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter" (an "A: for Adulteress, branded on a lady's forehead) been replaced by a modern "W" (for Water-Waster)? Is heavy usage of "precious tap water" in the Arizona drought of our 21st Century a suitable "sin" to match New England's "adultery" in the 18th?

The latest gambit from the director of the water department in a nearby burgh was to persuade the local newspaper to publish a monthly list of the ten individuals and ten businesses with the greatest water bills. With water rates already sky-high from a prior gambit, it's not surprising to read that the first list of the 20 totaled over $411,000.

The resulting controversy about its citizens and commercial businesses being exposed to public shame has prompted a bit of interesting controversy in the newspaper, with published letters running about 10:1 against "sin".

Water conservation is not new to the long list of southwestern virtues, especially in the cities and villages with no access to CAP water and whose income come largely from development-related fees and tax-based real estate levies. Municipalities (the above burgh included) drill for water from every available aquifer, including those beneath small landowners and ranches. Already draining the same aquifers are those tapped by newer, huge production wells (which water many acres of beautiful fairways and greens on the several golf courses, in addition to adjacent homes). Every dry well (and there are many) seems to strengthen their requests to invade the nearby forests.

Widespread local conservation, free low-water-use commodes and even the reuse of all available effluent for a lake in one of the burgh's several parks and street-side trees (broadleafed water users) gives no significant long-term relief. Limiting local population growth has apparently already been stamped out (too hard on coffers).

Now, perhaps shame will be the sought-for answer! If not, what conceivably will be next?

Carroll M. Elmore, Payson

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