Gov. Janet Napolitano unveiled a comprehensive new water management plan last week that includes an immediate and permanent 5 percent reduction by all state agencies.
"We can live without that water, drought or no drought," Napolitano told delegates at the 85th Arizona Town Hall at the Grand Canyon.
While the governor praised the dams and reservoirs, which have contributed to the state's growth, she warned that more needs to be done to assure an adequate water supply in the future.
"All of the water management strategies we have employed to date are not enough to sustain us for another century," she said.
Praising the award-winning conservation efforts of several communities, including Payson, the governor called for the development of a "culture of conservation" in Arizona. She elaborated on Payson's conservation ethic in an interview with the Roundup Wednesday.
"Payson is really a leader in the state in the conservation measures it has instituted," she said. "What we want to do is take that culture of conservation that Payson already has and export it to the cities and some of the places that have not seen fit to be pro-active in this area. Every Arizonan, no matter where they live, has to take responsibility, and my job is to communicate that message. Water conservation must become part of our daily routine in Arizona."
The town of Payson passed and implemented a new water conservation ordinance last year that is one of the toughest in the nation, according to Public Works Director Buzz Walker.
Rather than base conservation stage levels on the amount of water stored in tanks, as the previous ordinance did, the new ordinance ties them to "resource status levels" that incorporate weather conditions and historic data as well as storage reserves.
Under the Payson ordinance, water waste of any kind is prohibited, as are new turf areas, artificial water features, plants that require spray irrigation and the use of misters.
Key components of the governor's plan include:
- Assistance to rural water providers and local governments in modernizing their water usage capacities;
- Development of new water conservation technologies through such measures as the creation of a virtual water university combining the resources of the state's three major universities;
- Formation of a non-profit cooperative association to promote effective water conservation throughout the state;
- A regional response to pollution in the Colorado River, which was recently declared "the most endangered river in America" by the conservation group, American Rivers;
- Rapid settlement of lawsuits involving tribal water rights, some of which have been pending for decades;
- Preservation of wildlife ecosystems along the river;
- State-mandated water reductions as drought conditions dictate.
The virtual water university will be a super-center of research, providing community assistance and economic development. "As Arizona history shows us, there is no greater catalyst for Arizona growth than the assured availability of water," Napolitano said. "And there is no greater threat to our future than the lack of it."