Attack On Rural Arizona Unwarranted

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Excuse us, but the editorial that appeared in the Monday, Oct. 3 edition of The Arizona Republic scolding rural Arizona for its "misguided" water policies cannot go unanswered.

It's not so much that the points the editorial makes are inaccurate, because for the most part they aren't. It's the way they make them -- like, as they put it, they're "talking to a know-it-all-teenager." And it's the way they conveniently ignore their own growth and water-wasting sins, which make ours pale by comparison.

Their editorial was triggered by the recent Think AZ study on water availability and growth. The Roundup featured the study on the front page of our Sept. 23 issue and in an editorial on Sept. 27.

Think AZ, an independent, nonpartisan research institute, based the report on three rural case studies -- Payson, Prescott Valley and Buckeye. Of the three, Payson is portrayed as the community with the most immediate water needs.

The study notes that rapid growth has led to increased groundwater pumping, to the point that Payson is rapidly running out of water. And in emphasizing the need to control growth, it stresses the sacrifices that must be made in the process -- like affordable housing.

The Republic editorial chides local officials and state legislators for their unwillingness or inability to impose regulatory measures and concludes that local governments must be given the power "to link water availability to development" and rein in exempt private wells outside the town limits.

All well and good, but if the Republic wants rural Arizona to get the message, referring to us as know-it-all-teenagers ("It goes in one ear and out the other.") doesn't cut it. We may disagree internally on the wisdom of taking water from an unincorporated neighbor to feed Payson's growth, but we all agree on one thing -- nobody in Arizona is growing faster and wastes more water than the officials, developers and residents who live in the Republic's very own back yard.

At a time when we are struggling to survive on groundwater alone -- because we don't have access to CAP water and because Salt River Project takes our surface water to the Valley to water 350-some golf courses in Maricopa County -- The Arizona Republic has no right whatsoever to depict us as willful juveniles.

A simple, indisputable truth speaks volumes about the difference between the attitude of Rim Country residents and those who reside in the Phoenix metropolitan area: Thanks to Draconian water conservation measures -- among the toughest in the state, if not the nation -- Payson residents have reduced water consumption to 86 gallons per day per person.

The Republic's hometown readers use a minimum of 187 gallons per day per person. If the Valley could achieve the same scale of economy that Payson has, the Republic could have saved the ink.

As Rep. Jack Brown told Payson residents just yesterday, "Payson understands water about as well as anybody. (You) are probably No. 1 in the state on conserving water and using your water carefully."

At a time when the Valley is growing so fast that it's choking on its own urban sprawl, it is amazing that the Republic only gives conservation a passing mention.

But even a teenager can do the math: Hundreds of golf courses, a difference in daily consumption of 101 gallons per person per day, and dozens upon dozens of lakes and other artificial water features that are not designed to reclaim wastewater like the lakes at Payson's Green Valley Park -- The problem isn't rural Arizona. It's urban Arizona.

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