Governor's Water Plan Visionary

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Remember the New Deal, the Great Society and the New Frontier?

There was a time when we could expect our elected officials to act with vision -- or, at the very least, on a carefully thought out plan of action.

Today's politicians seem more concerned about getting elected than what they're going to do when they get there. And once in office, crisis management often prevails over long-term planning.

That's why Gov. Janet Napolitano's comprehensive new water management plan feels like a refreshing shower in the middle of a protracted drought. Presented to the 85th Arizona Town Hall at the Grand Canyon, Napolitano's plan is based on the premise that maintaining an adequate water supply for the state is going to take advance planning and a real commitment to conservation -- by everyone.

To create a foundation for her plan, Napolitano emphasized the wisdom of those who came before us in building the canals, dams and reservoirs that allowed our desert state to bloom -- and why these past solutions are not enough anymore:

"This one-two punch of record drought and record growth demands that we embark on a new era of water management in Arizona -- a worthy successor to the Hohokam of the 12th century, the dam and aqueduct builders of the 20th century...."

The governor then divided the issue into smaller components and proposed a plan of action for each. They include:

  • Formation of the Colorado River Advisory Committee to work with neighboring states to address possible allocation reductions.
  • A firm commitment to a regional response to Colorado River pollution.
  • A fast resolution to decades-old lawsuits over tribal water rights.
  • Specific assistance from the Arizona Department of Water Resources to rural water providers and governments to modernize their "water usage capacities."
  • A commitment to wildlife habitat protection along Arizona's rivers and watersheds, the lack of which could eventually impact the state's greatest economic engine -- tourism.
  • Creation last year of the Governor's Drought Task Force "to draft a roadmap for comprehensive drought management in Arizona," including mandatory statewide water reductions when, and if, necessary.
  • Formation of a virtual "Water University," combining the expertise of Arizona's three major state universities to create an "interdisciplinary clearinghouse of knowledge" for educating the public, and creating new water management technologies.

But perhaps most important, the governor called for the creation of a "culture of conservation in Arizona, wherein everyone who lives and works here does all that can be done to conserve our most vital resource."

She understands that while the drought may serve as a wake-up call, the state is past the point of stopgap solutions: "Water conservation must become a part of our daily routine in Arizona," she emphasized.

At a time when many communities, especially those served by the Salt River Project, are balking at even minimal conservation measures, preferring to overcome any delivery shortfalls by pumping groundwater, the governor's timing is perfect.

And to prove that she means it, Napolitano ordered all state agencies to reduce water consumption by 5 percent -- permanently.

From here in Payson, where water conservation has already become a way of life, the governor's water management plan sounds downright visionary.

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