As it was in the early days of the West, water remains our most precious commodity and our greatest challenge. Those simple realities were brought home once again by two recent stories in the Roundup.
One story pointed out that while Payson labors responsibly under Stage 3 water conservation guidelines, smaller surrounding communities are using all the water they want -- most with the blessing of their water provider, Brooke Utilities.
While many residents in Pine, Strawberry, Mesa del Caballo and the other communities served by Brooke practice sound conservation anyway, many others don't.
And when the conservation level sign at the entrance to your community reads "1", it's hard to have much incentive to conserve. Even worse, Brooke has done precious little to encourage water conservation.
Yet we are in a searing drought of unknown duration -- a drought that some experts say could last another 20 years or more. How can we possibly stretch our fragile water supply far enough if we aren't prudent about our water consumption today and every day?
The second story, which appears in today's paper, tells of the most recent encounter between the Tonto National Forest and the residents of Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows over Payson's proposal to drill exploratory wells in the Diamond Rim area. Despite marvelous new mapping, drilling and testing technologies, despite the most stringent standards and the strongest assurances by the Forest Service, the locals are still afraid the town will suck their wells dry.
Once again the drought is at least a contributing factor to the wariness these folks have for the town's intentions. As water becomes scarcer each day, it's natural to try and hold on to what you have.
Two stories about water that, at first glance, seem only marginally related. But a look at the big picture brings the issue into sharp focus.
The best chance we have to survive the drought is to conserve and to work together for a common solution utilizing the very latest technologies.
To that end, Brooke Utilities needs to provide some moral leadership. It's to their long-term advantage to do so.
But water conservation is so fundamental that we can't wait. We all need to do our part to conserve -- today.
And, as we said before, it's time to let the town drill exploratory wells in the Diamond Rim area. The safeguards are in place; the technology is here.
Of course, the town needs to provide assurances that the water it finds will be shared with its neighbors.
Water is a commodity that belongs to all of us. Nobody has a right to waste it or hoard it.