Legislature Could Help Solve Rural Water Problems



The state of Arizona is presently in a drought condition, and has been for several years. However, it seems that the people in Phoenix have no clue of the situation. They continue to waste water on lush landscaping, swimming pools, golf courses and water features such as fountains, lakes and waterfalls. I live in Payson where we are on water restrictions and can only water on certain days of the week and during certain hours. I cannot wash the dirt off of my sidewalk, deck or patio, and can only wash my car with restrictions. Further restrictions will eliminate all watering of landscape, and probably require taking a shower on certain days of the week.

Back about 1912, the state Legislature gave Salt River Project exclusive rights to surface water over a watershed that covers about a third of the state. This leaves the rural population in this watershed the only option of pumping ground water, and watching surface water run through their property for the benefit of Phoenix. These rights to the surface water were fine back in the days when most of the population was in the Phoenix area and the ground water was sufficient for the rural areas. However, the rural areas are continuing to grow and need more water for everyday use, and the ground water is no longer sufficient to support these areas.

There is a solution. However, it would require an act by the state Legislature to make it work. Every few years we get a wet year or two when Salt River Project has to release water down the Salt River to the Colorado River and the Gulf of Baja, which is just wasted. If the rural communities were allowed to build water reservoirs to retain this water during wet years, it would be no loss to SRP lakes as it is wasted anyway. The rural communities could be notified by Salt River Project when they could retain any surface water runoff in these rural reservoirs. Any other time, the rural communities would have to let the surface water run in and then out of these reservoirs to continue on down to SRP lakes as is done now. The amount of water that it would take to fill these reservoirs, would be a drop in the bucket to SRP lakes. However, it would give the rural communities a backup source of water to carry them through the drought years.

Another thing that could be done is to build a large reservoir on the Salt River in the desert west of Buckeye to retain some of this water that SRP has to release down the Salt River during wet years, which could then be pumped back for use in Phoenix thereby reducing use of existing SRP lakes water.

Twice, the Legislature has enacted legislation that has benefited the Valley and metropolitan areas. Once was when the SRP was enacted and again when the Central Arizona Project was established.

If the state of Arizona is to continue to grow, it is again time for the Legislature to act and establish a water supply for the rural areas as well as the metropolitan areas. This system would benefit both metropolitan areas as well as the rural areas, giving them a water supply to enable continued growth. It would also establish additional recreational areas for both the metropolitan and rural areas, which is also a needed thing.

Bob Youtz, Payson

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