Thursday, May 17, 2007

Talk of the Town: "Pumping will harm the Upper Verde River"

John Zambrano lays out chapter and verse on what we all know to be true. I'd like to say that it will end the chaff-tossing on this and allow us to start moving forward on a reasonable solution, but that would be more than optimistic.

Even the most ardent pumping advocates agree privately that their plan is unsustainable, but they think they can buy time for technology to provide the solution. Everyone at the top of this issue knows what the solution is: a massive solar-powered desalination operation on the Gulf of California providing water for the entire Sonoran region. Up here in YavCounty we're fighting over table scraps when we could be planting the farm that will feed us all. It's pathetic.

Update, 7:15 May 18: We interviewed ADWR Director and way cool cat Herb Guenther today, and without prompting he laid out the solution exactly as I have above. Listen on 89.5 FM Saturday or Sunday at 2pm -- it's in two parts, the first this weekend and the second probably week after next.


leftturnclyde said...

"a massive solar-powered desalination operation on the Gulf of California providing water for the entire Sonoran region"
but steven(I called you but steven,huh huh huh)
that would mean everybody would get water making prescott less important and then what would the queen bee do ?

John P. Kamin said...

I'm back from vacation today!

Coincidentally, I just looked up a letter from Zambrano along with other stuff for a new blog today at:

Zambrano is a very well-researched gentleman who can get as specific as needed. And to boot, his viewpoint in the Talk of the Town makes sense to me.

I think that the feds need to take care of the West's water problem, otherwise, what we'll have in 50 years is:
- every municipality's wells running low,
- states fighting each other for water (as in more fighting than there is already),
- the feds will be the only party who can resolve interstate fighting along with intermunicipal fighting.

Lastly, I'm not as worried about the Verde River as I am for all of the water tables in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and California. In 50 years, the Colorado River will be enough. We will need a larger solution. Do we want to wait until Year 50 to look at the Big Picture? I hope not. Let's start investing in a solution now. The Verde's important, and our individual rights are important, but let's face it - we need a regional solution, not a one-state or one-city solution. The importance of future generations and millions of people across four states by far outweighs Prescott's right to dictate it's short-term future.

leftturnclyde said...

Welcome back John!
"Lastly, I'm not as worried about the Verde River as I am for all of the water tables in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and California"
John,if youre worried about the water table in the southwest, youre worried about the Big Chino Aquifer and the Verde River,period.
Asking the feds to come and fix our water problems when we are pissing our water away as fast as we can is ..well..pretty damn stupid.Whats needed is to develop a plan of how we are going to live with the water we have until that big desalination plant, that steven mentioned ,can be built .
Mining water is not the answer,Taking water away from our neigbors to the east is not the answer.Trying to pull attention away from what we are doing wrong HERE, is not the answer.
We need to stop this growth merri-go- round that the local powers that be have got us on and look for sustainable solutions instead of alowing developers to build all the houses,wallmarts,and stripmalls they can before the water runs out and they skip out to the next state with out of control growth and lax oversight.
The courier could help with this.
the courier is not.

Steven Ayres said...

Hope ou had a good vacation, John, you were missed.

I think we're pretty much on the same page on this issue, other than lack of worry about the Verde, which supports an awful lot of life besides humans that would be an awful long time coming back if the water went away even temporarily. Add to that what SRP would do if the river even diminishes measurably, and it's a major deal.

But yeah, regional, and international as well. Imagine what happens if we have water and Sonora and Chihuahua don't.

JPK said...

Clyde, no matter what we do here, if we allow northern Arizona to take on 5-20 million new people in the next 25 years, I guarantee you that our problem will be much larger than the Big Chino. After all, the Big Chino may be the start of the Verde, but it isn't the only thing contributing to it. What about when the Colorado River has to support Los Angeles, most of Arizona, Las Vegas, and southern Utah in 30 years? Rural Arizona will be left in the cold, I promise, as the Las Vegas and Los Angeles and Phoenix lobbies will outweigh us. That's the larger problem that only the feds can solve.

The Verde's important. But let's face it, in the 50 year outlook, it's small potatoes compared to the Colorado and all of the other watersheds across our entire state, which will ALL be strained and drained in 50 years. The growth won't stop unless we implement population caps, which means limiting real estate transactions, which I don't think is realistically ever going to happen.

Steven Ayres said...

OK, I see where you're coming from John, and it appears you have a darker view of the overall water situation than many in our community. I find myself wanting to argue for a ray hope in that, while we can't have much effect on what happens with the Colorado, we YavCos do have a choice about what happens with the upper Verde, and that choice is being made as we speak. I think that this is a case where acting locally really can make a long-term difference.

jpk said...

(I'm happy to see that you guys care about the situation, and more power to you!!!)

Yes, I agree that the Verde should be in our hands, and I'd be surprised if the pumping didn't affect the Verde. You've also got me pegged correctly, after reading the first few chapters of Cadillac Desert a while back, I've come to a much darker view of our future.

After all, let's pretend that our council chose not to mine the groundwater at the Big Chino. Even if they did that, I predict that the majority of that water would disappear into the clutches of downstream entities during the next 20 years anyway.

You see, that's the problem - all of these councils will be out for themselves, eventually. And that's who we're entrusting the future of the entire water supply to - a haphazard collection of various town councils who distrust their neighbors (ahem, our councils distrust Verde, and vice versa).

Even if Prescott were to preserve the Verde, the downstream folks will eventually take it. Then it's all for naught.

That's what happened with the Gila River, isn't it? The white farmers fought the Apaches and the New Mexicans for their water rights, only for all to lose mucho agua to the Gila River Indian Community. Then they all blamed the GRIC and San Carlos Lake almost went dry. Even Napolitano and Renzi got caught with their pants down on that one, and barely saved the day at the last minute. Now imagine what'll happen to the Gila when that population in all those areas grows by 10 times its current size.

Perhaps my blood sugar's just too low, thus the pessimism. Time for an energy drink...

Also, please don't let my pessimism make you think I'm angry. I'm happy to see that you guys care about the situation, and more power to you!!! This is my last posting on this topic.

Anonymous said...

I would disagree that the feds need to step in to solve our water issues. While I think that they do need to lay down a few ground rules to keep states from fighting each other, I believe that local problems need to be addressed on local levels first.

I think the crux of all our water problems is that we are not willing to build within the scope of our available resources. We are happy to say that given "X" acres of land you can own "Y" number of horses but we are not willing to limit development to available water. Yes, the science on what sustainable water is available in a given area has a long way to go but the same is true for the needs of our current "build & import" paradigm, including how we reach safe yield.

We need a simple solution that people can understand and demand. Like it or not, our water policies and interpretation of science is driven by politics and that is driven by developers and big money unless people get involved. Developers will not care how bad the situation gets because in the end we will all pay as they move on to new areas.

Presently, I see ungodly expensive solutions which will only enable more runaway growth because the fundamental thinking will not have changed. Alternatively, if we charge a price for water that is reflective of what it is really worth (and not a price geared to sell more houses) and if we look at development in terms of what we have available, we can alleviate most of our future problems and be left with just our present issues to tackle.

Steven Ayres said...

=> we are not willing to build within the scope of our available resources.

It seems we're a bit past that point already, aren't we? Most of the state is mining groundwater.

What I'm really wondering about is whether you see a practical approach to limiting growth, in the sense of a legal framework for telling property owners that the riches they've been banking on from that new development ain't gonna happen, sorry. Water pricing alone? If so, how do you establish a controlling authority over, for example, a home-dug well?

Herb G made an interesting point asserting that the AZ constitution establishes a right to access water, but not to own it. It seems to me something can quite iikely be done with that.