Oak Creek, Photo by Ted Grussig

Oak Creek, Photo by Ted Grussig

Article Published in the Red Rock News
January 3rd, 2014
by Tom O’Halleran

Another year has passed without a comprehensive water resource plan for the preservation of the Verde River and its tributaries, such as Oak Creek, Sycamore Creek and Fossil Creek. These are all significant waterways that rely on groundwater to sustain their flows.

A series of studies—and most water experts—have all indicated there is a long-term risk to the surface water and groundwater of the Verde River Basin. The United States Department of Interior and the seven Colorado River Basin states have predicted there will be shortages on the Colorado River by 2050.  The Verde is a tributary of the Colorado. Acknowledging this pertinent information should lead us to formulate cooperative water management on a regional scale.  Those responsible for water planning need to develop a comprehensive strategy for our water future.

Peter F. Drucker was an educator and writer whose articles explored how humans are organized across business, government and the nonprofit sectors. He wisely stated: “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes, but no plans.” As a watershed, state, Southwestern region and nation we are at the juncture where we must commit to comprehensive planning for our water future.

We have a lot to lose. Inaction and procrastination may lead to monumental costs. In the mid 1930s, as the world was moving toward war, Winston Churchill repeatedly tried to warn the leaders and citizens of Great Britain of the consequences of being unprepared. Churchill stated: “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

Inaction relating to water management strategy will have dire consequences within the Verde Basin and Southwest region. Anyone involved with planning understands that real, long-range blueprints are meaningful and based on the best-known credible scientific facts. The discussion of the issue should be based on reality, transparency and inclusion. Because planning is a process that has identifiable goals, objectives, milestones and process, the public should be able to be confident that their water future is being planned in a professional and timely manner.

Water in the west has become a competitive process. As supplies become more limited, planning will become a necessary element. Water resource experts have indicated that if we are to have the water necessary for projected population growth we will have to eventually transport water from areas outside the Verde River Basin. In a competitive marketplace, those who realize their needs first and have a plan of action will be in a better position to attain their goals.

Water issues are complex on the scientific, governmental, environmental, financial, legal and planning levels. This means it takes time to identify a plan that has the support of community leaders and the public. If history is any indication, the implementation of water resource plans have become more and more costly and, due to their complex nature, take a lot of time to put into effect.

It is time to commit to cooperation on a regional basis. It is time to stop the history of half-measures that solve only the immediate crisis and lead to increasing costs and environmental impacts. It is time to embrace long-range planning so our water future is secure.

As Abraham Lincoln stated:  “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

by Tom O’Halleran
Chair, Verde River Basin Partnership

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Upper Verde RiverPhoto Courtesy of Prescott Daily Courier, Joanna Dodder Nellans Children Wade in Sedona’s Oak Creek, a Tributary of the Verde River.