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5 April, 2008 - It’s Time for a Water Policy

For years I have been talking about concerns over water; its availability and quality. You have heard me say many times that I feel the next major battle between rural and urban America will be over water; who gets it, it’s quality and how it gets used.

There is no question we need water to sustain life. Industry needs water to provide employment and produce goods. Agriculture needs water to produce food, and as individuals we need water to wash cars, to cook and to water the lawn. All of us need water.

Whenever I spend time in Scottsdale in the Valley of the Sun in Arizona, the importance of water becomes even more apparent. That is why this past week, while spending several days in Arizona, I was very surprised at a front page headline of the Sunday Arizona Republic. The headline read “Water Bounty; The Reservoirs Are Filling.” In the 22 years I have been visiting Arizona, I don’t ever recall reading that kind of a headline. But then in small letters underneath, it said, “however, the drought is not over.”

Yes, it is possible to have a drought in the middle of the desert. The drought in Arizona is now in its eighth year in a state that averages a little over 8 inches of rain annually. State meteorologists, as well as citizens, were anticipating another very dry winter because of La Nina, but it turned out to be just the opposite. As a matter of fact, from November 30th until the end of February, a three-month period, four-and-one-third inches of rain fell in the Valley of the Sun. Suddenly, water canals and reservoirs were filling and Roosevelt Lake east of Phoenix registered water depth increases of ten to twelve feet in one day. With a good snow pack in the mountains that feed the Colorado River, they are looking forward to good water supplies as we go into the summer in Arizona.

But it is a reminder once again, of how critical the supply of water can be and what an impact it has on our lives. People who live in the Desert Southwest are much more aware of that than those of us in other parts of the country where water is more plentiful. I vividly recall getting my first water bill after building a house in Scottsdale in 1992; the bill was so big I thought it was an offer for my house!

This all brings me to my final point; the need for a national water policy that supercedes state borders and local governments, that promotes wise use and conservation and that fairly allocates water to satisfy the needs of all of us. If you think water shortages can’t happen to you, let me suggest you read “The Drying of the West” in a recent issue of National Geographic Magazine; it will get your attention and hopefully, will stimulate a national dialogue to establish a national water policy.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.


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