Hello, Flagstaff! Has everyone been enjoying our relatively active winter weather? I have, after last year’s exceptional dryness and the perpetual threat of wildfire. I deeply appreciate the rain and snow that we’ve been blessed with. Water is an ongoing concern and something I think we need to think critically about.
The climate is changing, the City of Flagstaff has recognized that and laid out a series of goals and steps that we think will help our community and our planet. As the deserts grow hotter, the threat of fire more severe and droughts longer, we need to plan carefully for our water future.
First of all, this planning should be based on sound science. Good environmental and water policy cannot be done in the absence of evidence-based science and study. I do not plan how to repair my car because I am not a mechanic. I bring my car to an expert, then listen to the advice and follow a course of action. Water policy should follow the same route: listen to the experts and develop policy accordingly.
In my years of public service, I’ve heard absolutely irresponsible claims that we in rural Northern Arizona have plenty of water and do not need to plan, or that our forests were the cause of our droughts. There have been those who said Flagstaff could take care of its own water needs in perpetuity and does not need strong relationships with regional partners to safeguard a future water supply. This is all ridiculous. Scientists and experts with the data to back it up tell us that the planet is warming and this will place greater strain upon our water supply. The smart thing to do is to plan accordingly.
The other thing we must do is work with our regional partners. Tribal communities have been speaking out against uranium mining at the Grand Canyon in part because of concerns about contaminating the water. Contaminated water doesn’t recognize borders and any level of contamination in rural Arizona is cause for concern. Furthermore, the economy of Northern Arizona greatly benefits from the natural splendor that is the Grand Canyon. Diminishing the canyon experience at all comes at a cost to not only Flagstaff, but Williams and Tusayan as well.
Northern Arizona also has a burgeoning and wonderful food scene, which will need a guaranteed supply of water to continue and thrive. The other day I had a meal that included locally raised steak, a salad and potatoes from the Verde Valley, and local beer and wine made in Camp Verde were also served. It was incredible, and all from our friends and neighbors. Nothing sat on a truck for weeks or needed to be shipped in. It was a very special experience that spoke to exactly what makes this place so great. The farmers and ranchers, breweries and wineries all need a guaranteed water supply, it’s a fact of life. Furthermore, they go on to supply markets and restaurants and those small, locally owned businesses employ a lot of people here in rural Northern Arizona.
Our lakes and rivers are also a draw, and as the weather gets warmer, more and more people are going to seek respite amongst our cooler temperatures. These should be protected. The Colorado, Oak Creek, the Verde – all of them contribute to what makes this place so special. None go through Flagstaff, but we as a town benefit from easy access to all. Flagstaff isn’t Flagstaff if it isn’t where you stock up before a river trip, and it wouldn’t be the same without Oak Creek next door.
I’m proud of what we’ve done locally to address climate change and water conservation. I’m thrilled to see other towns and communities take similar steps. And, I look forward to working with our regional partners to make sure Northern Arizona continues to have a sustainable water future. FBN
By Coral Evans
Coral Evans is the mayor of Flagstaff.