Sunday, May 23, 2010

Arizona Boggles on River Definition…Ownership

I carefully tore out Steve Ayers’ article, “Verde ownership status still on hold”, from a recent issue of the Verde Independent  and have read and re-read the piece a dozen times or more.

Attorneys are the only ones who seemingly understand the questions of ownership of the Verde River and courts keep passing the issue up, down, and sideways.

The basic question, courts are asking, is whether the Verde River was “navigable” in 1912 when Arizona became a state.

Navigable is the operative word.

The impact of the answer is two-pronged.
  1. If navigable, the State owns the Verde River and it is public.
  2. If it wasn’t navigable, adjacent property owners own the Verde and it is private.
Questions are legion.

Does Arizona legally define rivers as having to be “navigable”?

What is “navigable”…?
      Navigable to an inner tube?
      Navigable to a river boat drawing 1 – 2 ft. of water?
      Navigable to an inflatable raft?
      Navigable to a swimmer?

What is in the best interest of the State?

What is in the best interest of the people of Arizona?

Is it in the best interest of the State to let ownership fall to property owners of the region who would “own” the water and divert it to a ditch system to sell to various interests?

Whatever the questions…Whatever the speculations…The river will win.  Attach sufficient legal handles, manipulate it through the courts, “handle” it enough, and…it will fool you. 

Rivers can be fickle.  Maybe…just maybe, it will dry up and call itself a dry wash.  

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Water Use Comes Down to Money

The ultimate solution to water problems in Arizona will relate to money.  For example, charges for water in any dwelling, at least in Jerome, AZ, is charged according to the number of residents.

Use is not metered and – lacking meters –per person is the only practical method.  (Rumor has it that meters were purchased but subsequently stolen for their brass content – ironic in a billion-dollar copper camp.)

Water use is apparently governed only by pipe circumference and pressure, averages and the guesses of city administrators of what each of us will use to shower, shave, flush toilets, etc.

The question begs, “Can we conserve?” Of course.  The ways and means are obvious.

But, where’s the benefit?  If I conserve water, who cares?. . .My water bill won’t change.

While Jerome is irrelevant to the wider concerns of water use in Arizona, the problem persists for the majority of the state.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) struggles along without budget or teeth.  People still refer to “sustained safe use”, the state still seeks development and, realistically, there isn’t a developer with a buck and a dream who can’t demonstrate the probability of a 100-year’s sustainable supply.   

Without minimal charges for essential, personal use and rapidly escalating ones for discretionary use, a luxury tax if you will, sustainable water use will remain elusive.