It will be years before water flows from Blue Ridge Reservoir to northern Gila County -- as much as 10 years by some estimates.
But that doesn't mean we should sit around and wait for the water to flow. The Town of Payson is already working to handle the new water supply. The purchase of Forest Service land at Highway 87 and Houston Mesa Road for a water treatment plant has already been approved by the town council.
Because Payson has a long history in the water business and a substantial customer base, it is a pretty safe wager that the town will be ready for Blue Ridge. Don't bet the farm, however, on Gila County.
What we're being told so far is that the county is, or soon will be, seeking legal advice on forming a water authority -- a necessary first step.
And it's critical that the county become a player. While the community of Pine is the most needy, other northern Gila County communities like Mesa del Caballo and Whispering Pines have historically had chronic water problems.
County officials must find a way to make Blue Ridge happen for all the communities of northern Gila County. The most obvious point person for the county's effort is Tommie Cline Martin, newly-elected district one supervisor, an active, engaged leader who wants to do right by her constituents.
We urge her to make Blue Ridge her top priority. There is no single issue more important to the future of northern Gila County. If she can pull it off, her legacy will be assured. If she can't, northern Gila County could suffer the same fate as the prehistoric people who were driven out by an earlier drought.
As one water official pointed out, unused reservoirs are in short supply. It's critical that the bounty of Blue Ridge be shared by all.