Time To Wash Away The Discord

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Water's an amazing thing.

Let's say you've got the dust of your history smeared across your face.

All you need is a splash of water and a bar of soap, which disrupts the tight links between the polarized water molecules. Once electrically decoupled by the soap molecules, the water loses that surface tension and the water molecules can go to work on that dirt.

Voila. You're clean. A fresh start.

Water can drown you or save you or clean you.

So now that Payson's patience and foresight is about to pay off in the form of a deal with the Salt River Project (SRP) to acquire water from the C.C. Craigen (Blue Ridge) Reservoir, it's time for a fresh start when it comes to Rim Country water politics.

Clearly, we need some version of a water summit here in the next few months to take maximum advantage of the 3,500 acre feet stashed in that reservoir for Northern Gila County.

Although it seems like we have years to scrub down the details -- Rim Country actually faces a key deadline in the form of Payson's decision on what size pipe to lay as part of a $30-million project to get the water from the end of the SRP pipe on the East Verde River to a water treatment plant in Payson.

So far, none of the agencies that could negotiate a legal entitlement with SRP for water to be delivered in the Payson pipeline have talked to either Payson of SRP -- with the exception of Brooke Utilities.

Officially, Payson has locked up its 3,000 acre feet -- the result of patient negotiation, a serious water conservation program and the ability to answer with precision when SRP asked how much water the town needed to secure its long-term water future. In theory, that leaves just 500 acre feet for any other town, water district or water company in Northern Gila County.

So should Payson build a 16-inch pipe, which is all it needs to deliver its 3,000 acre feet? Maybe we need an 18-inch pipe, which could also deliver the added 500 acre feet places like Pine, Strawberry and Star Valley might use. How about the 128 acre feet that the Tonto Apache Tribe might lay claim to by swapping its existing allotment of Colorado River water.

Now, wait. Would SRP sell some of that 7,500 acre feet left in the reservoir to which it has rights? And hang on: Payson doesn't have to use 3,000 acre feet every year -- it has to average 3,000 acre feet in five years, if it wants to protect its water rights. So maybe that pipeline needs to carry 5,000 acre feet in some years -- particularly during a localized drought or water emergency.

And that means the pipeline could save the whole area in a water emergency -- assuming Blue Ridge doesn't go dry. Suffice to say, there's a lot riding on how big Payson builds that pipeline.

Fortunately, Payson has repeatedly declared its intention to consult with other entities and to operate its proposed pipeline to the benefit of the entire region.

That's a good start.

But when the grime has set in, sometimes you cannot just run words over it -- you've got to get out a brush and scrub until you reveal the common interests that lie beneath.

Hopefully, the discipline and big-picture view that got Payson to this point will convince other officials in the Rim Country to take the next vital step.

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