Denial Flows Freely Under Mogollon Rim


I have a confession to make: At 11 p.m. last night I watered my poplar tree with my garden hose. It was the first time in three years that I have used anything other than gray water or captured rainwater on my outdoor plants.

I am not confessing totally because of the guilt I feel, but because the circumstances leading up to my wasteful act speak volumes about a simple truth. Many of us are living in denial when it comes to the drought we're in.

I live in Mesa del Caballo. A few weeks ago, our volunteer fire department had a car wash fund-raiser. Many of my neighbors lined up to have their cars washed.

Last weekend, I drove by a friend's house. He looked up from watering his yard and playfully squirted his hose at my car.

Last night, a couple who live down the street were carrying on a conversation as they stood on their lush front lawn, oblivious to the garden hose one of them was holding. As their animated discussion continued for what seemed like half an hour, the hose spewed water on the same spot.

I stared at them in disbelief, hoping somehow they would notice me and realize what they were doing. They didn't.

By the time I went out at 11 p.m. to tuck my horse in, I had forgotten the incident. But on my way to the corral I noticed something on the ground around my poplar -- one of two non-native plants growing in my yard. It was a scattering of leaves that had fallen off, a sign that the tree was not getting enough water.

Suddenly the three previous events flooded my mind. I grabbed my garden hose, stuck it in the well under the tree, and turned it on.

As the cool, clear water rushed to fill the well, another recent incident came to mind.

After the meeting about the Diamond Rim exploratory wells project in Star Valley Monday night, a man followed me to my car. Eric Wiltz, a local physician's assistant, wanted to tell me that his well is running dry, so he is moving his family back to Texas.

"There's a lot of denial out there -- all over Arizona," he said. "It's a fact. Nobody's lying. There's a water problem. There's a drought. If I were (staying here), I would hedge my bets and assume it's not going to go away."

At a time when some of Payson's private well owners are outraged because the town dares to tell them they need to conserve like the rest of the town, at a time when way too many of us use water like we still live in the Midwest, at a time when Brooke Utilities refuses to place even voluntary restrictions on a dozen or so communities surrounding Payson, the words of Eric Wiltz bear a close read.

"My heart goes out to everybody here," he said. "I just hope everybody can work together and try to solve the problem."

The key words are "everybody" and "together."

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