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WATERIs Flagstaff in danger of running out of water in the near future?

What about the Verde Valley area?

“It depends on who you talk to, and about what kind of water resources,” said Erin Young, City of Flagstaff water resources manager.

“We don’t have an issue with water for the City of Flagstaff. We’re assured of a 100-year supply, given our current population and its projected growth, especially when we have another water supply.”

Young cited a couple of reasons for optimism about water in Flagstaff.

“The City has Red Gap Ranch about 30 miles east. That 7,500 acres can provide about 8,000 acre feet of water a year,” she said. An acre-foot of water is estimated to serve three households.

She explained the city had conducted a feasibility study to build a pipeline to the Red Gap Ranch. It was working with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to receive approval to construct the pipeline parallel to the highway.

She said Mayor Jerry Nabours and the Flagstaff City Council recently received a letter from ADOT to move forward with its planning.

Young referenced something else significant the city has done in preserving the watershed.

In 2010-2011, community interest and research led to the exploration of Flagstaff investing in the restoration of National Forests that fed the city’s watershed. In November 2012, Flagstaff passed a $10 million bond issue to restore the watershed in the Coconino National Forest.

“It was a forward-thinking decision by city officials and the City Council to put that before the public,” said Young.

The Arizona Town Hall November 2015 report, “Keeping Arizona’s Water Glass Full,” praised Flagstaff as the first forest PWS (Payment for Watershed Service) project in the nation to be voted on and passed by the public.

Young noted that others in Flagstaff, such as the Friends of the Rio de Flag, also had been active in protecting water resources.

She commented that other communities were not quite as fortunate as Flagstaff. She mentioned that the Town of Williams, 32 miles west of Flagstaff, needed to invest in infrastructure to meet its water needs, but that financial resources were not adequate.

She was emphatic about the need for community residents to reduce water usage and conserve whenever possible. “Water is not infinite. We must use it carefully.”

Young, a city employee since 2012, has held her current position for two years. From Minnesota, the Arizona State University geology graduate has responsibility for continually monitoring and assessing water resources.


Flagstaff Attorney Passionate About Preserving Water

Attorney Jocelyn Gibbon has made it her mission to learn about water resources and what can be done to protect them. Gibbon, the principal in Flagstaff-based Freshwater Policy Consulting, worked as an environmental and water law attorney for a prominent Phoenix law firm before she moved back to Flagstaff late last year. She also served as a member of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Colorado River team.

Gibbon now serves as a strategy and policy consultant for several local and regional clients. She works with the Friends of the Verde River Greenway Environmental Defense Fund and similar groups. She is also a member of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section of the Arizona State Bar.

Gibbon acknowledged the Flagstaff community has been proactive in considering sustainability of water resources. Even so, she is adamant that the public needs to become aware of what she considered three key issues:

  • Educating people about the unique differences between surface water and ground water law – “… for which regulations are distinctly different.”
  • Achieving a balance in water uses – “…identifying and using better tools to assure that finite sources and supplies of water nevertheless are available to a population for judicious use.”
  • Persuading the public that just because water shortages don’t seem to be immediate and urgent for Northern Arizona – “…we have to think truly long-term, 50 and 100 years out there, and be creative and protective of the unique environment we’re passing on to future generations.”

“My jaw dropped in 1996, when I first came west to Arizona and saw not just the desert but also the mountains in Central and Northern Arizona,” she said. “For someone who had grown up in Arlington, Virginia (and attended college at Williams College in Massachusetts), I found where I wanted to be – a totally different habitat.”

Gibbon promptly made learning about natural resources, especially water, her passion.

She worked for six years as a Colorado River guide – and still does a few trips each year. She was accepted into law school at the University of Texas-Austin, where she earned a juris doctorate cum laude, with specialization in natural resources policy and water law.

She additionally has studied Colorado River law and other water regulatory processes at Northern Arizona University. She especially complimented the research of NAU Professor Abe Springer, Ph.D., from the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability. Springer was one of three authors for the research report prepared for Arizona Town Hall, Nov. 15-18, 2015.

“There is no doubt,” she said, “preservation and protection of a sustainable water supply and flowing rivers is going to be critical for the future of Arizona, especially in this area and the Verde Valley.”

A recent participant at the November Arizona Town Hall (ATH), which focused on water, Gibbon now is being called upon as a speaker at several ATH community outreach meetings, including the Verde Valley and Prescott.


Clarkdale: A Model For Rural Community Water Users

Contentious issues and adjudication about water use in the Verde Valley have been ongoing for decades. However, one community – Clarkdale – has been proactive in promoting aggressive stewardship of water resources.

Years ago, Clarkdale realized it had no alternative water resources. It became one of only two Arizona communities to adopt a mandatory requirement that no plat for a subdivision within the municipality will be approved unless the Arizona Department of Water Resources determined that the municipal water supplier had an adequate water supply.

Jodie Filardo, community and economic development coordinator for the Town of Clarkdale, said, “We’re blessed with having a visionary mayor and town council. In addition to our proof of adequate water supply policy, they spurred actions toward preserving, protecting and sustaining water resources back in 2006. They collaborated with the City of Cottonwood to purchase the private water companies operating in our town. Beyond that, we have undertaken water rate increases as a way to encourage conservation. We educate our community about the cost of water. With one of the highest water rates in Arizona, we have achieved one of the lowest per capita usage rates,” she explained.

Filardo, who earned a bachelor’s degree at Stanford University and a master’s at Arizona State University, for years has been directly involved in Verde Valley leadership roles. Founder of the Verde Valley Leadership group, she is chair-elect for the Northern Arizona Council of Government Economic Development Council.

Filardo has worked with town officials to put into place a multi-million dollar project to replace water mains, to recondition a $5.5 million wastewater treatment plant so that the effluent standard moved from B to A+, making it suitable as a replacement for groundwater pumping.

In addition, the town is working with the University of Arizona and Lacher Hydrological Resources Management Consulting to outline six key projects to enhance water stewardship. Filardo said that without area-wide attention and conservation, reduction of the available water supply will impact everyone along the Verde River. She suggests that for the short term, water conservation is a critical factor. For the long-term, she says water usage reduction and productive use of effluent are necessary.

“Despite being a small town, the vision, perseverance, creativity and dogged pursuit of stewardship of our water resources by our citizens has paid dividends,” she said. FBN

Water Concerns Flow Beyond Coconino, Yavapai Counties

In recent months, a myriad of groups have convened to develop plans and strategies to assure a safe, reliable water supply in Arizona.

Arizona Town Hall sponsored its 107th Town Hall program, Nov. 15-18, in Mesa. Almost 250 community, civic and governmental leaders heard experts from not just Arizona but also several other states discuss “Keeping Arizona’s Water Glass Full.”

Several participants were from the Flagstaff and Verde Valley areas.

Tara Jackson, president of Arizona Town Hall, noted, “Sustainable water supplies have been a topic at various town halls for the past five decades. Never before has the population in arid Arizona faced such persistent competing demands for water, especially in rural Arizona.”

From those presentations and panel discussions came key recommendations, which then were passed along to community, county, state and national governmental agencies and organizations.

Key recommendations included:

  • Create a long-term strategic plan in collaboration with tribal, local, county, state and federal levels.
  • Appropriately fund and staff the Arizona Department of Water Resources, which then can carry out statutory responsibilities for water planning.
  • Educate and create public awareness among the public and political leadership about the need for future public-private partnerships and private sector investments in infrastructure, economic development and land development.
  • Promote conservation and augmentation of water supplies so that Arizona will meet the supply-demand challenge over during coming decades.
  • Initiate legal reform to ensure more expedient and equitable resolution of water rights issues.

The final report especially emphasized that while metropolitan Arizona does not face a water crises, the opposite is true in rural Arizona, including, of course, Yavapai County.

Among other Arizona groups were these:

  • Southwest Arizona Futures Forum, which in September, brought together about 100 community and student leaders to address the topic, “Water: Protecting our Most Precious Resource.”
  • The Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University and the Arizona Republic conducted a symposium 3 in Tempe. The focus was to hear leading water experts and policy makers discuss what is necessary to sustain future water supplies.
  • The AZ Water Association, headquartered in Cave Creek, has 2,200 members who are water and wastewater professionals. The group conducted its Annual Research Workshop, Jan 14. FBN

By Ray Newton, FBN

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