Task Force Program Could Be Turning Point In Water Debate

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Water is the new oil.

The fight over it will no doubt define the next century -- globally and locally.

The battle is an emotional one -- a matter of survival.

And for that reason, the debates over water are not always rational ones. Mixed in with the facts and figures are factors of politics, ego and money.

The debate can quickly turn into a maze that is difficult to navigate.

And that is why a new interactive spreadsheet developed by the Mayor's Water Task Force is so important.

A group of volunteers -- retired statisticians, engineers, geologists and hydrologists and experts in water law -- worked for months to develop this spreadsheet that levels the local water debate to a matter of numbers.

The interactive spreadsheet was created for use by the Payson Town Council as a way for them to compare the options available.

As water task force chair Lynn Godfrey said, "It doesn't make any decisions for them."

The side benefit is that this tool is available to the public, to anyone interested in taking the time to learn how to use it. The spreadsheet can help lift the veil of mystery on our local water problem.

It may not solve our problem, but it could give us the information to help find the solutions necessary to solve it.

The spreadsheet is divided into two sections. The top half is "what if" -- a list of variables that can be changed at random by the user of the program.

The variables include the rate of population growth, the actual population of Payson, impact fees, and the amount of water available in the Tower Well, Blue Ridge Reservoir, from effluent, from the aquifer below Payson and in the National Forest.

The bottom half of the spreadsheet automatically calculates how much water will be available in Payson each year through 2060, depending on which population figures and which water sources identified in the top part of the spreadsheet are tapped.

Between the two sections is a box that changes as the variables change, to show you how much the chosen water supply will cost.

It feels like a stripped-down version of the video game The Sims or the board game Risk -- where you make a decision and immediately see the consequences. You quickly learn that some options are cheaper than others, but take longer to implement, or that some options can go online immediately, but are prohibitively expensive.

You also learn that it will take a combination of solutions to maximize output of water and minimize the debt we will incur along the way.

This is a hands-on way to get a better mental understanding of the water situation in our area. You'll learn more in 30 minutes of punching in numbers than you will learn in months of meetings and contradictory speeches.

The work done by the water task force in the creation of this program is a true service to this community.

Two copies of this interactive spreadsheet are available on disc at the Payson Public Library for anyone to check out. It's also available for download below.

The spreadsheet itself is accompanied by several documents explaining water law, the procedures of the task force and the background of every variable in the equation so users can maximize their time with the program.

On the surface, this spreadsheet may seem intimidating, but we encourage you to take the time to understand it. The benefits to the advancement of community understanding in this debate will be immeasurable.

Download the Water Task Force spreadsheet (Excel document-212KB)

Instructions and documents, which accompanied the Water Task Force spreadsheet, are available for download below.

Download "Water Task Force" (PDF-64KB)

Download "Water Law" (PDF-64KB)

Download "New-Water Options" (PDF-88KB)

Download "Sensitivity Analysis" (PDF-820KB)

Download "Spreadsheet Strategy" (PDF-48KB)

Download "Spreadsheet Variables" (PDF-200KB)

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