Friday, December 23, 2011

Which Way Goes Desire

When we talk about the availability of water resources, we assume 0.5+ acre foot per person.  
As people f.... and population increases, the question for Arizona is whether our sexual desire will overcome our thirst. 
That's an interesting question. 
The disturbing complexity is that thirst will kill us and sex, or the lack of it, will make life unpleasant.  
There's a finite limit to Arizona's water...a finite limit to population hasn't been found.
If you need it spelled out, a growing population will have effects on water use.
You can pick up sex at the local grocery store.  Wanna quible about water? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Water and Money Are the Same

“We’re paying them $54,000 for nothing,” he said.

Diedrich said Griffin and Brown were right in the first place to suspect the City would have to pay the fee regardless of whether it wanted to or not.

Another problem Diedrich and Marchione had with the fee was that it was solely imposed on municipalities, meaning that unincorporated areas weren’t paying one cent for water, which is every person’s most basic necessity. Diedrich also pointed out that 80 to 90 percent of the state’s surface water is in unincorporated land.

The state claims the water fees are necessary to balance its budget, but Diedrich isn’t buying it.

“It’s the state’s way of covering the costs of groundwater,” he said. “In my opinion, that’s not balancing the budget.”

(from Maricopa Monitor,, November 1, 2011)

The names and people don’t matter much, just tired players in a tedious game of politics and money. The State of Arizona hasn’t gotten it quite right yet but it’s coming close.  It will bicker, squabble, gesture and pose . . . finally coming to the conclusion that WATER and MONEY are the same.

Without this intimate relationship, housing developers investing a million and hoping to make millions will not be able to certify, guarantee, warrant there will be a 100-year assured supply of the stuff.

From the other side, millions will not buy what isn’t there.

Ground water? Aquifers? Both are ephemeral!

If y’care to see what’s there, look out your backdoor.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Environment and Jobs

In a recent column titled, “Party of Pollution”, Paul Krugman writing in the October 20, 2011, NY Times remarks that current thought among some Republicans wants environmental laws defanged for the ostensible purpose of creating jobs.
Krugman, concludes that suspending or eliminating environmental laws will simply make us sicker and poorer.

In a coincidental presentation to the Cottonwood City Council, Andy Groseta, head of the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, took a cue from some of the positions of Republican presidential candidates and initiated an attack on the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) calling for a five-year moratorium on legal challenges under the Act. He singled out federal environmental regulations as standing in the path of the Arizona Cattle Growers Association plans to place thousands of cows in the federal forests. 

Without cattle eating more of the government grass, he says, calamitous fires will continue to ravage the Southwest and future famine was imminent. He claimed, also, his plan opens up the prospect of future jobs. 

"We need a 'time out' from the environmental process to harvest more trees and get more cattle out there," he said.
He called the measure a "jobs creator bill."

Job creation, as a concept, has become the new enabler.  Despite the temporary change created in the name of jobs, longer lasting effects will affect the environment, rivers and water resources in particular.

Without trees and grass rain impacts the ground directly and in this hilly region of the Southwest run-off, or just simple erosion, becomes a problem.  Run-off loads rivers with silt as topsoil is washed away.

Clear cutting was implicit.  Selective cutting of trees to clean out years of undergrowth and neglect was not mentioned. 

In this desert environment trees such as Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine take decades to mature. 

A moratorium on EPA Regulations is, in effect, a permanent solution in the desert.  

In contrast, for example, trees in the Northwest reach harvestable size in 15 years because of the abundant rainfall.  Cottonwood, Clarkdale, and Jerome don’t get abundant rainfall.  

Obviously, we all have a stake in this public position and ranchers should not hold a special position that alters our water resources because of queer, uneducated, special interests.

Our water resources are more important than Arizona Cattle Growers Association interests.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Water Use Threatens Colorado River & Arizona

On a particularly frightening note, a Climate Central article written July 13, 2011, by Tom Yulsman (, pointed out that for the first time withdrawals from the Colorado River outpaced supply and future water consumption is likely to continue this desperate trend.

The Colorado River supplies water to almost 35 million people in 7 states including Arizona.  The shortfall has been made up through increasing draws from Glen Canyon and Mead Reservoirs.  The reservoirs, however, are having problems of their own.  Facing a “worst case scenario” the reservoirs are going through an 11 year drought, the worst in recorded history.

This shortfall is occurring despite a snowpack of huge proportions this year in the Colorado Rockies which is the primary supplier to the river.

It’s also occurring in the face of decreased per capita use in the Colorado Basin.  In a study measuring use over 20 years it found that while the per capita use dropped a whopping 20% … the total people using water from the Colorado River grew by 10 million. 

As their study concludes, this is unsustainable.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Selling the Verde River, Part 2

It seems that any thoughts expressed about the Arizona ditch system that draws water from the Verde River generates a variety of knee-jerk reactions that are inaccurate or irrelevant.

The point made in the previous post was that the design of the diversion dam on the Verde River may be pushing more water through the Cottonwood Ditch than it is entitled to take.

I did not (1.) condemn the ditch system nor did I (2.) disparage the 300+ users of Cottonwood Ditch water.  Although certainly possible, I did not (3.) question the environmental impact of the diversion dam.
Google Earth Image taken June 13, 2011, showing the Cottonwood Ditch Assoc. diversion dam.  Nearly 100% of the Verde River is blocked, diverting most of the river’s flow not along its natural course but to the Cottonwood Ditch. Various springs and seeps restore the river’s flow about 1,000 yds. downstream.

Others have concerns, as well. 
Doug Van Gausig, Mayor of Clarkdale, entered comments into the minutes of the town council meeting of June 2007 regarding Mr. Grosetas activity.

"This summer the Cottonwood Ditch is again diverting 100% of the Verde River into their ditch, allowing only a trickle to bypass the diversion. This is a terrible thing for the river's habitat. It means that the river is no longer a viable corridor for transportation and migration of aquatic animals - the diversion becomes, in essence, an unnatural barrier to movements in the river. I talked to Greg Kornrumph, of SRP, and to Max Castillo and Les Bovee of State Parks (which operates the Hickey Ditch) about possible remedies for this situation. I'll continue to work on this issue with State Parks, FreeportMcMoRan and Cottonwood Ditch to find an equitable, legal and durable solution to this annual problem."

A suggestion made by Mr. Groseta is that “interested citizens and political leaders consider the adverse impact . . . trees and vegetation are causing to our river system. These millions of trees are sucking the river dry!", he asserts. 

If this is the case, it’s surprising he has let trees and vegetation line the first mile or so of the Cottonwood Ditch.  (He is President, remember!!!)

As the photo indicates, the river's water has disappeared because of the dam, not because of surrounding trees and vegetation.

Mr. Groseta's myopia may stem from all the trees that block his view of the forest.

The question should not be my qualifications but Andy Groseta's take from the river.  It affects everyone.

1. I debated whether to continue the subject of this blog in the Verde Independent.  A newspaper is not the format for on-going discussions of a subject.

2. Some respondents to my previous blog should learn the difference between insinuation and inference.  I don't insinuate anything, but I can't control reader inferences.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How to Sell the Verde River.

Andy Groseta has again blocked the complete flow of the Verde River.  He's entitled to do it...Arizona law says so.  The law also says he is entitled to take 10.6 cubic-feet-per-second from the river for the Cottonwood Ditch Association, an organization he heads up.
Note the increased level of the Verde River upstream from the dam and note
the curved configuration. That's important because it increases the flow rate of
water through the sluice gate that is a primitive way of measuring his
"take" ...which he sells.
His water-take is determined by a simple sluice gate.  The flow through that sluice gate, however, is determined by the pressure of the river, whether the river is "high" or "low".

Note the level of the Verde behind the dam.  It's 8 -10 feet higher than downstream.

The primitive measuring systems in use do not calculate river back-up, water pressure and subsequent flow.  

It's not the diversion dam that's at issue.  The issue is whether the design of the diversion dam increases his "take" beyond his entitlement.

Has anyone measured Groseta’s take from the river?

My neighbor has a sign that proclaims, “The River Always Wins.”

We’ll see.  The Verde may need some $$$s of its own.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Drink Your Pool

Coming from Chicago and later Cleveland I’ve always lived around the Great Lakes where water is plentiful. 

It used to surprise me, however, on business flights to Phoenix to see the glint of light from all the swimming pools on the approach to SkyHarbor Airport.  Later, as I drove to appointments, it was difficult not to notice the lush yards of homes and businesses.

My folks lived in south Florida at the time and the lawns of Phoenix always reminded me of the lawns in Florida.  As I would enter Phoenix and drive through the city forty years ago I remember thinking, “If these folks want to live in Florida they should just move there.” 

I wondered vaguely if the Florida wannabes living in the desert will ever wish they could drink their pool.

Out here now I marvel at the flora and fauna that thrive in this desiccated environment, a unique beauty…and a challenge of adaptive change .

For the Verde Valley and its close neighbors, the consideration is different.  Temperatures are more moderate and there are few pools. Ultimately, however, water is just as scarce.

The Northern Arizona Groundwater Model, a computer tool developed by the Water Advisory Council in conjunction with the USGS, provides the capability of guiding water management of the Verde River basin. 

According to Steve Ayers of Verde News, the computer program is “a numerical groundwater model that allows for the simulation of recharge to, and withdrawals from, the system, be they natural or man made.”

Further, he points out, “it means that by sitting behind a computer, loaded with the calculations of a numerical groundwater model, you can simulate the effects caused in one place, when you begin pumping groundwater from some other another place.”

Organizations can attach any number they want to water supply issues, but the result will be disappointing – there ain’t much there.  Just look out your back door.

If people living in the desert are counting on "adaptive change" they may have to wait hundreds of generations as did the cacti.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Underground Water Issues

From the 6-29-2011 New York Times:

With uranium prices rising, the number of mining claims (has) jumped sharply over the last few years. There have been about 3,500 claims in the Grand Canyon-area alone. If developed, they would generate toxic wastes that would threaten the Colorado River — the source of drinking water for roughly 27 million people — the aquifer and the Grand Canyon ecosystem in general.

This excerpt is not taken from a scientific journal nor is it a hydrologists’ more or less educated opinion.  It’s just common sense:  What happens on the surface has consequences in the aquifer below it.

Little wonder that Native Americans push against this project. . .they’ve been around for a while and may have a different perspective than we Anglos.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Random Thoughts about Water

When this blog first started, no one talked about water resources.  The discussion of water is now in the news daily.  Most of the rhetoric is how to get more of the stuff.  Why…are people getting nervous?

Signs in restaurants occasionally proclaim, “Water served only on request”. Is that comment due to the cost of water or its availability?

Our environment is changing and turtles, frogs, and fish have smaller habitats.  Why isn’t that viewed as important?

Do we need lawns and pools, or . . . do we just want them?

The current water release to Mead Reservoir from Glen Canyon Reservoir is 13 million acre ft. That was an unanticipated, high release made possible by the runoff from the unusually heavy snow pack in Colorado and Utah.  It made many people happy and averted a “drought” warning for Arizona.  Can we count on heavy snow packs in the future?

The release numbers for the last 17 years average 9.69 million acre ft.  That figure is not much above the low numbers of “drought” years which hovered around 8.24 acre ft. 

We seem to get enthusiastic about that number but is it really something to be excited about?

“It is not necessary to change,” remarked Dr. W. Edward Deming, “Survival is not mandatory.” 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Water Use Slowing but Rates Increase

Water use in at least one Arizona metro area seems to be slowing according to a news item reported several times on KJZZ, an NPR radio station in Tempe, and the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson.  

Despite an increasing population in the Tucson Water Service Area, served by several utilities, water use is only slightly higher than a decade ago.

Use is even less when calculated on a per-person basis.  That number has dropped from 164 to 133 gallons per day since the year 2000.

Reasons for this decline are only speculative but range from the slower economy to residents’ changes in income, household water bills, their attitudes about their financial future, and even their mortgage situation asserts Gary Woodard, an associate director of hydrology and water resources at the University of Arizona.

However, the water utilities want the economics to cut two ways. 

When supply is adequate and demand drops as it has in some communities, prices should decrease . . . at least according to our laws of supply and demand.  Because demand has dropped, the water utilities shouldn't cry poor because of sliding revenues and shouldn't charge higher rates to remedy their problem.

But, that’s exactly what they’re doing by proposing an 8.2% increase for fiscal 2011 – 2012.

The solution, says a friend with former ties to Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission, is to establish a similar organization in Arizona that would regulate rates, not with an eye to profit but what utility rates are necessary to cover costs.

That may be too much to expect short term but what we can count on, long term, is more expensive water.

To review background on this, click on the following link:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Water Resources and City Economics

The growing risk of water shortages in the Verde Valley and throughout the state of Arizona will have a direct effect on the bond ratings of the cities involved, says an opinion piece in the October 20, 2010, New York Times

Snowmelt is regional  and usually doesn't reach the broader environment
While lowered bond ratings are not currently a problem for many communities in this area, it likely could be in the future.

Part of this liability is due to local squabbling for this resource, commonly referred to as “water wars”, and the attendant legal costs that drain municipal budgets.

“Municipal bonds are bought and sold on the basis of their credit ratings,” the NY Times article reminds us, “yet today these ratings take little account of utilities’ vulnerability to increased water competition.”

Pursuing a cautious perspective against future water costs, the city of Cottonwood bought several water companies in surrounding areas and shortly thereafter raised the rates.  In an editorial of August 22, 2010, the Verde Independent characterized this buying as a “spending spree” and suggested the city follow the advice of its financial director, Rudy Rodriguez, to go on a PR offensive “so people understand why the attendant rate hike is necessary and important.”

The Verde Independent is correct that the city should communicate its intentions to its residents.  It's just good politics to tell taxpayers how the city is spending its/their money...and why. 

Rates, by the way, were decreased at the lowest use levels but, none-the-less, raised at higher levels.
There was a river but vegetation didn't know it.
It seems reasonable to give breaks to “minimal” users and raise rates for large users.  In other words, conservative water users will be charged the same or less than before the rate increase and “excessive” users would be charged at increased rates.

What is essential is that people realize we are living in the desert where water is scarce and finding a path to sustainable use can be complex. . .water is a limited commodity and should be expensive. 

Cottonwood officials realized that water use will be governed by our wallets and it was a far-sighted city administration that intelligently planned for the city’s future.

Of course, the saga of Cottonwood-water has a negative side.  According to a local resident the city is again planning to alter its rates upward because decreased water use has put a dent in anticipated revenue.  
Cliffs, Mesas, Water.

But, the Arizona Republic has another take.  In an April 15, 2011 article focusing on Phoenix, the newspaper wrote, "Residents Should Know Who Is Behind Water-Rate Hikes".  The paper claims the projected increase is due to the State of Arizona withdrawing $7 million in funding from the Arizona Dept. of Water Resources and shifting the burden to cities. The AR pins blame on Gov. Jan Brewer.

In either case the Arizona Republic echoes the Verde Independent in calling for better communication between city administrations and their residents. 

The likelihood is residents won’t like what they hear.  Water is going to be expensive…very expensive. . .and it should be because water in the desert is a scarce commodity. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ed Abbey and Legacy

Never thought I'd like Ed Abbey. 
My neighbor, an environmentalist, liked him but I had to survive at the time on the publicity of Abbey that made its way east.  
The publicity wasn't good. . . I never liked the "monkey wrenching" element of it.
I suspect he valued his freedom, however.
Freedom from officials that intruded on his space.
Freedom from the effects of our political system. That was probably tough to do as head ranger at Organ Pipe National Monument on the border with Mexico and his employer was the US Government.
He came to terms, however.
I'll have to, also... 
Come to terms with the fact that big guys with guns now patrol this area. That they have every reason to intrude on my small patch of the Southwest.  That they can demand I talk to them, smile and imply that if I don't do what they say I'll be shot.
My small patch is filled with images at sunset, places I'd like to wander at dawn, quiet places except for the hum of bees.  I'd like to imagine it doesn't include big-guys-with-guns.  

Saturday, March 26, 2011

There Once Was A Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

In a largely forgettable piece titled, “Dear Mom”, penned years ago by Katie Lee, she suggests that population increase is at fault for many of our difficulties with the availability of natural resources.

The piece follows the theme of, “There once was a woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children she didn’t know what to do."

Population may be one of the problems we face, but problems with water will surely  be an attendant difficulty.

Evidence of this is considerable, mostly by rising water rates.

We tend to view the minor increases in our utility rates and accept it without question.  We don’t consider that the stuff we are charged for is…or will be…in short supply.  That’s our capitalistic system…we get fair warning.

Ask Katie and she will tell you that the world (as we know it) is ending.

Query Charles Bowden and he’ll tell you that thirst is one of the least desirable ways to die.

Exaggeration?...Hyperbole?  Maybe. 

What disturbs me is that we are balancing a variable such as population with a finite resource such as water. 

I have little confidence that we’ll fuck less.  I have all confidence that when we’re thirsty we’ll turn the tap and expect water.

It will end.  Just ask Katie.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shoot Up and Go away

We (a dear personal friend and I) recently finished a multi-day trip through southern Arizona sparked by the wish to get out of the cold of the north and explore photo opportunities in this less habited part of the state.  (I find "less habited" interesting.  What is it about the human instinct that often directs us to areas that have few other human occupants? areas that exhibit least evidence of human activity?...why a friend in a metro area blogs about photo experiences in his local desert?)

Our nominal destination to eat and sleep was the small, ex-mining town of Ajo.  South of Ajo was Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument which is where we wanted to wander.

We had been there before and the recollections didn't disappoint on this trip...the customary food of roadside restaurants and the scrubbed luxuries of a cheap motel...the arid desert where plants survive easier than humans...the unanswered observation of "How could people exist in this environment?"

I dunno. I can't imagine picking through human feces for undigested seeds as primitive people did centuries ago...or growing mellons and maize in this arid environment.

My companion thought there might be cactus flowers...but I was amazed at the number of law enforcement vehicles.  Border Patrol, Fish and Game, National Park, three or four other government organizations, the road stops where drug-dogs sniffed eagerly at the underside of the Jeep.

I realized I should focus on the environment around me and not the "real world" of the fools whose purpose in life is to interdict illegal substances.

"They" have never been able to stop the drugs. . .the money involved is too great and many jobs depend on it.

Legalize the stuff and leave my personal experience alone.  
Unfortunately.......I know "they" won't...this country is too righteous. . . as well. . . I hate the bastards.