Government leaders must more forcefully communicate to the public and municipalities the urgency for water conservation and more efficient water management as Arizona faces a long-term drought, some Valley residents told top state officials Wednesday.
About 50 residents gathered at Scottsdale Community College for the first of four meetings planned by Gov. Janet Napolitano’s office to get public comment on water issues.
The meetings are coming as Napolitano’s administration considers the recommendations of the Arizona Drought Task Force that the governor formed in early 2003.
Speakers at Wednesday’s forum offered mostly general suggestions on how to make the task force’s proposals more comprehensive. The meeting was taped for Napolitano, who was absent after having surgery a day earlier to remove her right ovary because of a cyst. She plans to attend the remaining sessions Dec. 14 in Tucson, Dec. 16 in Flagstaff and another in the Valley at a later date, said her chief of staff, Alan Stephens.
Stephens was on the panel at the Scottsdale meeting with Herb Guenther, director of the Arizona Department of Water Quality and chairman of the drought task force, and Lori Faeth, the governor’s adviser on environmental and natural resource issues.
Speakers lauded the task force’s work in compiling drought management and conservation strategies, but noted gaps in the plans.
The task force fails to point out that control of development and urban growth is critical to ensuring prudent use of water resources, said Jean Calhoun, an official with the Nature Conservancy’s Arizona office.
In addition to state water management strategies, the plans should call for more local community conservation efforts, Calhoun said.
Others said there should be more emphasis on implementing methods for reuse of water supplies, harvesting rainwater and use of new conservation technologies.
Tempe resident Tom Hildebrandt, vice president of the Arizona Riparian Council, said the state task force "sidestepped" addressing the need for protecting riparian areas and assuring water supplies for sensitive ecosystems.
Stephens said all of the issues raised could still be addressed in the state’s strategies because the plans are works in progress.