Saturday, January 24, 2009

AZ Daily Star Editorial RE: Joint City/County Water and Wastewater Study, Phase I report

The local paper has an editorial in today's edition reporting on completion of the Phase I study and adding a recommendation that other cities, towns, and water providers join in the effort.

My first reaction on reading the piece was - why is this even on the editorial page? They are basically just reporting on completion of the first phase and briefly discussing the contents of the report with a few quotes from people who worked on it. At the very end of the piece they note that the info from Phase I could provide a baseline for a regional discussion about water supplies and planning along with vague hope that others will join in the discussion - something I agree is necessary for a truly regional discussion on growth. But is this really an op-ed piece? It just seemed like reporting to me, that could just have easily been placed in the metro section. OK, so maybe I'm just a grouch.

They noted that other jurisdictions did not attend the meetings or provide input to the effort. As I have briefly discussed in previous posts here and here, the need to involve other jurisdictions in Phase I (because the primary goal is to provide an inventory of existing infrastructure the city and county have in place) is not nearly as critical as having them involved in later phases when the real nitty gritty of regional cooperation is very necessary.

Which brings me to my next point, that also ties in with a previous post on the community forum on land use planning that occurred in early December, here in Tucson. The main outcome from that forum was a pledge to engage in a regional visioning process, whereby the entire region would engage in multi-stakeholder discussions to determine what we, as a community, envision this region looking like at some point in the future. I think the future phases of the City/County study committee would dovetail nicely with that process - which would be the proper forum for multi-jurisdictional cooperative efforts to plan future growth with all it entails (land use, water supplies, ecosystem preservation and restoration, recreation, open space, etc.).

Unfortunately, there has been nary a peep about plans to get that visioning process rolling. Admittedly, it has only been two months and that sort of thing doesn't happen on the fast-track. But I think that by now they should have sent out some sort of reminder to all participants that it hasn't slipped by the wayside or been sidetracked by present economic woes. It seems to me that a downturn is the time to engage in this sort of process - there are certainly a lot of planners in this town looking for work at the moment because growth has essentially shut down. I'm really hoping to hear something from either Tucson Town Hall or the So. AZ Leadership Council in the next month or two. If not I might have to make a gadfly of myself.

Also, fyi (and I hate to put this at the bottom of the post, because its pretty important news) the paper is reporting this morning that one of the local copper mines south of town has switched the majority of its water supply from groundwater to Central Arizona Project water during the past week. Every time I go to a meeting about water, people are clamoring about getting the mines off of groundwater and onto CAP water in order to preserve the aquifer. Looks like they are starting to get their wish.

Addendum (1/25): I got so wrapped up in my initial discussion I forgot one of my main reasons for posting this. If the paper wants to write an editorial encouraging other jurisdictions to join the study effort they should at least include some discussion about why that would be in the best interest of the entire community (i.e. any future augmentation efforts should be undertaken jointly - think big if you're going to make a water grab because its more cost effective than doing it piecemeal). They might have also discussed why the other jurisdictions don't want to join (because they don't want to be bullied around by the City of Tucson/Tucson Water and Pima Co./Wastewater, both of whom are unlikely to relinquish any of the power their size bestows on them for the sake of regional cooperation). One of the points brought up in the Community Forum was that we are all in this together - either we all figure out how to sustain the region or we all fail because of lack of cooperation, there's no room for us vs. them anymore.


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