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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : editorials May 26, 2016

4/30/2013 1:09:00 PM
Editorial: Who do you believe on water issues?

When it comes to water and the Verde River, it seems that everyone is an expert.

Some are self-appointed experts and some come with a shopping list of credentials that will make your head spin. Funny thing, though, is that even those with the most impressive credentials do not always agree with each other.

And, when you consider that there are at least 17 different water/save the river organizations in the Verde Valley all with their own in-house experts, it’s no wonder that all we’ve done for the past 30 years is argue about who is right and who is wrong when it comes to water and the Verde River.

Recently, the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee split into two different groups. One focuses on the Prescott side of the Mountain, the other the Verde Valley. Yes, you guessed it, both sides have all kinds of experts who will be more than happy to tell you why they are right and everyone else is wrong.

Even more recently, the United States Geological Survey released its Northern Arizona Regional Groundwater-Flow Model findings. Not so surprisingly, not all of the 17 different water/save the river organizations in the Verde Valley and Yavapai County interpret this report the same way. Nor do all of them give it equal degrees of credibility.

All of which means that any time you hear any of these experts give you their opinion on the current or future health of our water supply or the Verde River, consider the source and what their agenda is. There are folks here in the Verde Valley who have become masters of picking and choosing information from the most credible of reports to promote their own personal agenda.

And on the next street corner, you can find another equally qualified expert who will tell you the exact opposite.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013
Article comment by: 17 Water Groups?

@Bias go both- seemed to miss the point: Seems like the bloggers have struck a nerve - maybe the author is protesting a tad too much? I understand that Cottonwood also has not joined the newly-formed and WAC-sanctioned "Middle Verde WAC." I guess they're just walkin' their walk and nobody else's. And as to what other utility has lowered consumption, fixed leaks and reduced pumping - do they really want to ask that question?

Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013
Article comment by: Not using evidence to influence policy? -

It is pretty obvious that contempt towards the city may be coloring the opine of those claiming it is ignoring 'empirical' data.

Sure seems like the city could find a way to generate infinite amounts of free water for all to share and folks would still have something to hold against them.

The cities policy and the measures it is actually achieving rather than just talking about appear to be anchored in reality rather than 'ultra super supreme absolute no growth fantasy'.

The unending 'I am rubber/you are glue' tete a tete is appearing rather pointless... but great for page views!

Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013
Article comment by: Clear thinking needed more than ever

The city of Cottonwood seems to be missing a very important part of a constructive solution to our future water challenges.

Objective, empirical science is not bias. To think otherwise is just plain wrong.

The USGS modeling data are the best most accurate representation of what's truly real that we've got.

The USGS is indisputably the most reliable and credible scientific authority available. Simply put, the USGS is the gold standard of unbiased scientific information on our hydrogeology.

The USGS has repeatedly pointed out they are only providing facts, and it's up to our leaders to use those facts to inform policy.

Or, in the case of Cottonwood, to not use those facts to inform policy.

Why would Cottonwood choose to ignore the best possible science and unbiased facts? Just ask Prescott and Prescott Valley, who paid for the USGS to run this very same model in their area and now are afraid to let them do it.

All of the actions Cottonwood is taking like reclamation and conservation are good. They are needed. They are important. They are part of a sustainable and comprehensive solution.

But it is absurd to pretend that continuing on the same path we are now, even with these conservation actions, will not eventually dry up the Verde River. This is what the best science is showing us, and this is what is self-evident.

So given that, can we just agree on this:

No one wants to see any owner of private property unable to develop their land because of a lack of water.

At build out, that will roughly triple our current regional population, not counting the 10 square mile trust land.

No one wants to see the Verde River dry up.

Providing water just for the existing private land will be challenging enough. It will take everything we've got to do that and save the Verde.

This is why people keep returning to the question of the Trust land. If there's a way to reduce future consumption by 25,000 to 50,000 people, and conserve that 10 square miles as watershed and a potential water production resource, we should at least have an open mind and consider it.

Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013
Article comment by: Emperical Science.... Yes...But,

Do we have any emperical data as it relates to
Yavapai county and the Verde Valley...Not Yet.

Did USGS give us any info...Yes. Their recent
report gave us 99% text book theory and only
1% raw sparse un-useful data.

We will need to pay USGS to measure and
supply Yavapai county with the actual emperical
quantities of water.

With the new data the old saying will still be with
us: "Whisky is for drinking and water is for

But as one member of the audiance at the recent
USGS public report questioned....Will people
have to start packing their bag and leave the
area? Answer from the USGS was: "The report
does not have the data to answer that question".

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013
Article comment by: Bias go both- seemed to miss the point -

And just continues to make the point of @ Gary B.

Bias is bias... regardless of who's side its on.

The continued harping on any certain entity not attending the 'special event' only clarifies the idea that people who don't acquiesce to their position are some how considered 'less than' if they don't fall in line with the truth as whomever is writing see's it.

The results of the special event are online for all to see... why should any municipality be shamed for not attending? especially the one that has been at the forefront on water conservation in the valley? Per this very news paper- a recent article-

Who else has reduced their percapita consumption by about 30%?

Reduced leakage loss by 20%?

Reduced pumping by 20%?

And reclaims about 2/3's of their waste water?

Even installed a rainwater collection system on a city building in old town.

Seems that will have saved more ground water than attending any special event could.

There is talking the talk...and walking the walk. So keep talking or get to walking... lest ye' be left behind and squawking.

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013
Article comment by: R J

Agreement by all will happen when the water is gone and everyone is forced to move.

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013
Article comment by: william gauslow

A well written editorial about water. It's an issue that never resolves. Its good constant discussion reminds us to conserve. Good old fashion conumdrum. I sure hope my shower works tonight.

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013
Article comment by: Bias goes both ways

Of course the bias cited by "@Gary B" is precisely the same description that could be applied to her own bias.

We've seen demonstrations of confirmation bias time and time again in Prescott and Prescott Valley, where they hire their own so-called experts in a futile effort to counter the USGS.

One prime example is the now discredited geologic theory pushed by their consultants about a clay plug that would supposedly prevent the upper Verde from drying up when the Big Chino is pumped.

The fact that the city of Cottonwood did not bother to send even one representative to the USGS presentation suggests they too are beholden to this confirmation bias.

It's high time to recognize that elected leaders and staff in the city of Cottonwood are tending to only put credence into theories and evidence that support the view they currently deem politically correct, even if it goes against the best science available.

Needless to say, that is dangerous. At some point the science and evidence becomes overwhelming. At some point virtually every reasonable person admits the USGS is in fact the gold standard of objective, empirical science, and to not use that science to inform policy is very wrong.

The best approach is to continue to shed light on the objective facts, the reality, and elect people to office who understand this and aren't afraid of the facts.

We need leaders who are willing to make the tough but necessary decisions, even if it goes against the entrenched special interests that have dominated our politics for decades.

Tough questions must be asked, and we must have the courage to answer them.

Future generations and the continued survival of the Verde River are depending on us to get this right.

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013
Article comment by: @ Gary B.- .

Perhaps the reason there has not been much disagreement due to the fact that the USGS info has been elevated to almost a cult like status.

Anyone who would even consider discussing it to the contrary of those you mention would be pilloried and dismissed as a heretic.

Folks should remember 2 things-

A model is a tool and tools can be used to satisfy those that employ them.

Blind allegiance to something that gives you the result you want is not always the best option... it will obviously blind you to other data that is just as valid- even if it does not support your narrative.

Of course water is a critical issue... so much so that trying to hang your hat on a model that is only using data up to 2005 and represents such a huge area that trying to draw any real conclusion is akin to painting a delicate portrait with a large mop- in that a lot of the detail tends to get lost.

If the solution to the issue is only seen as 'no-growth' then who decides who is worthy to live here? Who makes the cut? Will we implement the same rules for residence as SRP has for water rights? What was the date at which the demand started to outpace the supply? Should everyone who arrived after that date be required to either pay a premium or leave?

It seems we have found the top of the slippery slope... now will we choose to stay at the top or slide down the slope via emotional and reactionary rational?

Nobody wants a dry river but maybe the solution lies in turning off the tap rather than just shutting the gate.

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013
Article comment by: Slater Slater

It doesn't look like we'll be gaining significant
increases in the near future.
So lets start massive home developments,that
should do the trick.

Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Article comment by: Gary Beverly

As far as interpreting the recent VRBP-USGS study, I am not aware of any public disagreement on the results. The groups - the west county cities - that we might expect to disagree with the conclusion that pumping groundwater diminishes the river have been silent. Nor did they did attend the VRBP event announcing the study results.

I don't know where you get 17 groups. In Yavapai County, I count 6 groups with water as their primary concern and 4 groups with water as one of many concerns.

But, the Editorial is correct to point out that historically, a few advocacy groups have misinterpreted or distorted the science to advance and defend their specific goals. Growth, for example.

Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Article comment by: Jane Moore

As can be witnessed around the state (and Verde Valley as well) many rivers, creeks and springs have either declined or dried up altogether as a result of human impacts. Also, it is a fact that many areas have declining aquifers. This alone, should encourage us to look harder at the direction we wish to take.

Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Article comment by: 17 Water Groups?

I read the editor and a few others claim there are "17 water/river groups" in the area, but I never hear who they are. Also, I'm not sure what the point of saying this is - does he/she mean that 17 is too many? If it is, then let's trim the more than 40 economic development groups down to just a few, and the education groups down to , say 5. Or how about the political groups - how many is just right? If 17 groups form around water and river issues, I say "hurray for them!"

Also, the editor seems to play the false equivalency game that is so popular in today's media in this editorial - writing as if one contrary and poorly-supported idea can negate mountains of scientific evidence, such as the United States Geological Service has developed over the years.

Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Lee Confused

When wise folks are not sure they proceed cautiously.

Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Article comment by: Use empirical science to inform policy

Yes, it's true that red herrings can be thrown out by those who want to undermine water policy based on empirical science.

But it's probably more constructive to focus on what we all can agree on as a starting point.

Hopefully two things we can all agree that our water policy should be based on the best empirical science possible, and that we all want to prevent the Verde River from drying up.

There should be no question that the USGS is undeniably the most reliable and credible source of empirical science available.

We are fortunate that they are available to produce the numerical model that can inform our water policy.

Our water future is too important to allow ourselves to be fooled by those who would distort the data produced by the USGS.

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