Valley Fiddles As Southwest Dries Up

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Salt River Project's board of governors voted yesterday to continue reduced deliveries for water consumers in its 248,000-acre water service territory for calendar year 2005 -- the first time in SRP's history that the allocation has been reduced three years in a row.

The reason, of course, is the ongoing drought that has gripped Arizona and the rest of the Southwest for nearly a decade. If Rim country residents need a reminder, these three years of reduced water deliveries mark the first time SRP has had to reduce its allocation for a full year or more since 1951.

If you want to be downright frightened, consider this: The duration of the current drought is two years longer than the previous drought of record, which occurred from 1898 to 1904, and all-time-low spring runoff has occurred twice in the last nine years.

According to SRP, despite an "increase in groundwater pumping since 1998 and the importing of significant quantities of Colorado River water to extend SRP reservoir supplies, storage levels have failed to rise to adequate levels to protect against sustained severe drought."

Now here's something that's really frightening. Despite a record drought, despite reduced water allocations, residents who live in the Valley communities served by SRP won't even notice. That's because, according to an article in the Monday edition of The Arizona Republic, "the cities that buy water from SRP can make up the losses from other sources."

Of course, living with drought is nothing new in the Rim country. Because SRP takes most of the 1 million acre-feet of water it delivers to the Valley each year from a 13,000-square-mile watershed that includes Payson, Prescott, Flagstaff, Show Low and vast areas around and in between, we've been living precariously since the drought began. The town of Payson has curtailed growth and imposed draconian conservation measures on its residents.

It's too bad the residents of the Valley aren't being asked to play along. If they were, we'd have a chance of surviving a drought that shows every sign of breaking every record in the books.

It's also too bad that SRP won't sell us a little of our own water. We're not asking to live high on the hog like its Valley customers -- only to avoid the fate of the prehistoric peoples who came before us.

We understand about ancient water laws and acts of congress and all the other reasons SRP claims it's their water and not ours. But we also believe there should be a place in the corporate world for a sense of right and wrong, and what's happening in the Valley is very wrong.

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