Let's Give Credit Where Credit Is Due


Water's tricky.

Seems like nothing special, see right through it -- runs through your fingers. Yet it carries off mountains. Levels continents.

So if you want to control it, you've got to think like water -- which can wear away granite, in its infinite patience.

And that brings us to our very best favorite bureaucrat and how Payson Public Works Director Buzz Walker is a lot like water.

Hopefully you noted the historic headline last week -- Payson and the Salt River Project have reached agreement, in principle, to provide the town with 3,500 acre-feet of water annually from a reservoir up on the Rim.

We'll have to raise $30 million to build a pipeline and agree to limit our groundwater pumping to 2,500 acre-feet, but this new water will ensure Payson's supply, even if we build on every square foot of available land and grow to a population of 35,000 to 40,000.

If you don't quite get how it all fits together, ask Buzz. He's got this handy little chart showing how we would be using up every drop of natural rainfall and drawing down our precious groundwater reserves starting in about 2015, when the population hits maybe 20,000.

Buzz can explain anything concerning water to you -- seeing as how he thinks like water. That's why he started wearing away at the town's mountain of a water problem a decade ago, eroding the insurmountable with the drip, drip, drip of his nearly obsessive focus.

We won't even try to sketch the topo map of that problematic mountain -- but it had something to do with the Central Arizona Project, and a developer, and a dry cleaning business and superfund money and safe yield and Phelps Dodge and Star Valley and Indian Tribes and a water use fee and water credits and...oh my. Our heads hurt. Just go ask Buzz. He knows all this stuff cold: He'll flood you with information.

Suffice to say, he's been raining and misting and flooding and undercutting all these years, until he and some people like him turned that mountain of insurmountability into a valley of possibility.

This is why you must not make that face when you say the word "bureaucrat." For councils and politicians and newspaper editors come and go -- strutting and posturing in our turn. Fortunately, Buzz and his fellow bureaucrats sit quietly in their seats, making sure we have the sewage plants and storm drains and bike paths and smooth streets atop which a community grows. Fortunately, Payson has been blessed by devoted, expert, persistent bureaucrats -- Buzz among them.

Of course, if you know Buzz -- then you know he also cascades in a great froth over obstacles and thunders like a monsoon.

But then he always settles down and follows the contours of Payson's best interest.

And maybe someday when the residents of future Payson draw a nice glass of water before sitting down to read about the draconian restrictions on water use in other constricted rural communities, they won't give Buzz Walker a thought.

But that's because he's just like water.

Easy to take for granted.

But give him time -- he'll move mountains.

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