"The Water Issue In Arizona" by Joel Smith

Irresponsbile Water Use, Ridiculous Grassy Lawns and Apathy Threaten Our Way Of Life

"We're only made of water
The full moon gets us high
We can change our shape into anything
as often as we like."
New Model Army - Water from the album Carnival
Lyrics by Justin Sullivan

Arizona Some folks seem to have confused need and greed. I am sure all of us with children understand that confusion. This also holds true with something near and dear to all of us: water.

Arizona faces a severe water shortage these days. The population increase in the state is a contributing factor to this issue as well as the rampant misuse of limited resources. This is no secret, but it remains unknown to many Arizonans these days.

What causes Arizonans to waste water while living in a desert? There are many answers: One is farming. Farmers in Arizona, under the Colorado River agreement, are allotted all the water they require. Basically these folks have been grandfathered in as a political sop. They use a too much water to produce a crop that could be produced elsewhere using far less water. Farming in the desert has never been that profitable or easy and can be done in better locations.

Another contributing factor is that of what I refer to as the Midwestern Mindless uniform conformity mentality. I've noticed this trait for years in newcomers to Arizona first hand. For some inexplicable reason, they have this concept that everything needs to look the same and act the same as the place that they came from. Alas, that concept does not work well in the Sonoran Desert. Our rain fall falls short of their standards. We have few rivers and lakes in the desert. Our rain, when it does occur, can lead to major flooding that is not experienced in the Midwest.

As a result of this mentality, we get many grass lawn in Arizona. The grass requires constant watering in the summer and wastes a considerable amount of water for that "Green Grass" which is rarely done by traditional Arizona methods. A prime example of a traditional method of watering is to have large burms surrounding the area that will trap water and hold it in the area. The Papagos use to use this method for centuries farming out here. This method is rarely used these days because it is not pleasing to the eyes and looks like nothing that the Midwestern mindset has ever seen before, ergo - it's wrong!

Arizona Private pools also use a considerable amount of water and satisfy the needs of only a few. Public pools which are used by large numbers of people satisfy the needs of a majority of people.

What can be done? Perhaps an increase in the water rates to farmers who insist on growing non-native crops. This would place country folks on an equal basis with the urban population and would lead to a vast reduction in water use. Xeriscaping can be used as an alternative to the Midwestern Mindless uniform conformity mentality. A yard does not need to be just cactus to be xeriscaped. There are native shrubs and trees that are pleasing to the eye and require little water. Also, private individuals who use a significant more amount of water than the general population can be charged at a much higher rate to urge conservation. The urban areas in Arizona are growing at a staggering rate with no end in sight. Conservation and foresight can lead to ensuring that there is enough drinking water available for years to come for everyone to enjoy.

Just remember greed is not need. You can argue that it's a right to plant grass and do as you please all you like, but the San Pedro (A year round river. Not a wash.) ran dry this year and very few mourned its passing.

This essay was contributed by Joel Smith in Tucson, Arizona, an advocate for the preservation of our desert ecosystem. His web site is www.BajaArizona.com.

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