posted on June 29, 2009 12:03
By John F. Munger, special to Inside Tucson Business
Published on Friday, June 26, 2009
Arizona’s Achilles’ heel is water. Most of Arizona relies almost exclusively on groundwater for its water supply, supplemented by Colorado River water through the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which is now maxed out. The good news is that we have enough groundwater, at current levels of annual replenishment, to double our state’s population before we start drawing down groundwater levels. The bad news is that Arizona will double its population, and start drawing down the groundwater table beyond annual replenishment, in just 20 years and Arizona has absolutely no plan to solve this problem.
Thus, as matters stand today, in about five years or less, businesses will begin realizing Arizona may not be a place for long-term investment. Investment, and high-paying jobs for Arizonans, will begin to dry up with our water supply.
This is another result of Arizona’s penchant for operating by “Crisis Management” rather than by thoughtful long-range strategic planning. We must begin to address our water resource problems immediately in this strategic manner, finally thinking ahead and planning for the future. But we must act now, before waterbecomes more than a future problem and becomes an occurring disaster.
The good news is that solutions exist. Some partial solutions are more obvious: We should begin to plan statewide for proper use and conservation of our effluent and gray water, and we must start now to cover our CAP canals to reduce evaporation and loss of what some experts say is as much as 20 percent of our CAP water.
Some potential solutions are more complex and expensive. For example, one obvious alternative is to build one or more water desalinization plants on the Sonoran coast of the Sea of Cortez, and pipe water to Arizona via pipelines similar to our CAP canals, or even utilizing our existing CAP canals.
And we do not need bigger government and more taxes to do this. Just some real leadership to lead and to facilitate results. Private companies stand prepared TODAY to fund and build our problem-solving desalinization plants at their own expense. They could be built almost immediately, and the only expense Arizonans would have would be a monthly water user fee (which they already pay). No taxes, no bigger government. Potentially even enough water to sell to other water starved states, thereby reducing costs to Arizonans.
Many leaders in Sonora have already indicated their state would be delighted to help. The jobs created there would be a boon to its economy, and would, in turn, reduce the need of many Mexicans to illegally immigrate into Arizona.
It is time to move into a new era of long-term, strategic planning and away from government by crisis management. Let’s start with solving Arizona’s most serious long-term problem. Our children deserve it.
Contact John F. Munger, chairman of ImagineArizona, at be firstname.lastname@example.org. ImagineArizona is a political action committee promoting innovative solutions to Arizona’s public policy issues. Munger is a former president of the Arizona Board of Regents and former state chairman of the Arizona Republican Party