Srp Deserves Praise For Blue Ridge

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Nobody has been harder on the Salt River Project than the Roundup -- especially in recent years when drought made water even more precious in the Rim country.

As we labored under summer shortages that required trucking water to some communities and increasingly draconian conservation measures, the Valley of the Sun frolicked on golf courses made lush with our water.

We repeatedly reminded our readers how "antiquated state water laws and the National Reclamation Act of 1902 gave SRP all the surface water rights to a 13,000-square-mile watershed that supplies two-thirds of the nearly 1 million acre-feet of water delivered each year to SRP customers in central Arizona -- including many of the Valley's hundreds of lush golf courses." That watershed, we wrote "includes Payson, Prescott, Flagstaff, Show Low and vast areas around and in between."

We derided the "mystical connection" SRP claimed existed between surface water and water pumped out of the ground, and how the lawyer-tentacled, mega-monster had given Payson fits over the lakes at Green Valley Park and was trying to keep the town from drilling exploratory wells in the Mayfield Canyon area of the Tonto National Forest.

We mocked SRPs self-serving television spots calling themselves "stewards of the land," and chided local officials for not fighting back against this "moral outrage." It was the perfect David and Goliath story, and the Roundup's slingshot got a workout.

So what are we now to make of SRP's role in the unfolding Blue Ridge Reservoir saga? How are we to interpret what appears to be a diligent and sincere effort by the company to secure an additional 3,500 acre-feet of water for Payson and the parched communities of northern Gila County.

Has the bad guy put on a white hat and become the good guy?

As with most water issues, the complexities defy a simple interpretation, and, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

It's important to remember that while the Rim country will receive 3,500 acre-feet from Blue Ridge, the remaining 4,500 to 6,500 acre-feet will end up watering winter lawns in the Valley. And SRP officials readily admit that part of their motivation is to wean Payson off its dependence on groundwater so their surface water isn't impacted.

Having said all that, however, SRP deserves credit for doing what we have repeatedly asked them to do -- sell us enough water to survive. They have stayed the course through a long and difficult process when the ultimate profit margin can't be that great.

An SRP official recently asked a Roundup reporter if we were going to stop calling them "water robbers" now. The answer is yes.

And when the water actually starts flowing to northern Gila County, we will be at the head of a line of grateful Rim country residents offering thanks to SRP. If there's one thing we know up here, it's the value of water.

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