Feeding the voracious thirst of the Valley of the Sun during a time of drought is a daunting task -- even for a giant of an outfit like Salt River Project.
To meet the demand, SRP is turning increasingly to groundwater. According to a recent article in The Arizona Republic, SRP will pump nearly 100 billion gallons of groundwater this year.
If the drought doesn't break this winter -- and there are no indications that it will -- SRP will double the Valley's groundwater deficit during 2004 which already stands at 82 billion gallons.
What that means in simple terms is that by the end of next year, SRP will have taken 164 billion more gallons out of the ground than has been replenished. The result is predictable: once upon a time, SRP's wells averaged a depth of 500 feet. Today they average 1,200 feet.
Contrast the irresponsibility of our neighbors to the south with Payson where a simple concept called safe yield -- taking out of the ground only as much water as gets replenished -- has the town council actually whispering the word "moratorium" regarding new subdivisions. When is the last time you heard that word mentioned in the Valley?
Not only are there more than 300 golf courses in the Valley, but artificial lakes and other water features are becoming more and more commonplace.
Perhaps most telling, each and every Valley resident uses an average of 300 gallons of water per day. In stark contrast, residents of Payson use a little over 100.
According to the Republic, the extra groundwater will help the Valley get through the next year without shortages or mandatory restrictions. In fact, changing the mix won't really affect Valley residents at all, the article says.
It's impossible to sit by and watch this absolute rape of our most precious natural resource take place so Valley residents won't be affected "at all." Why isn't the Valley under at least voluntary restrictions like Payson? Why isn't SRP concerned about the long-term effects of their growing groundwater deficit?
Why haven't they launched a massive conservation effort?
At a time when many weather experts are forecasting another 10 or 15 years of drought, at a time when the town of Payson is considering going from Stage 2 to Stage 3 water restrictions next year as a precaution, at a time when the town's tough new water conservation ordinance bans new grass lawns and golf courses, we can only wonder what the people who run SRP are thinking.
It sure isn't about Arizona's future.
(Editor's note: Beginning this Friday, the Payson Roundup will debut "Water Wizards," a bi-weekly series that will feature in-depth interviews with the people who impact the Rim country's water situation. Because SRP owns all the surface water rights to a 13,000-square-mile watershed that includes the Rim country, we will invite them to participate along with local and state water officials and authorities. )