Talk of the Town: What you can do about the water crisis

"What can we do to help?" That's often the first question asked when the Citizens Water Advocacy Group (CWAG) speaks to a local club or organization.

It's a logical question because most people know that the policy-level actions that must be taken to both maximize our current water supply and guarantee a sustainable water future are the responsibility of elected officials in state, county and local governments.

But there are at least three basic things citizens can do to help: (1) learn about our water problems, as well as the solutions currently under consideration; (2) conserve water, both indoors and out; (3) vote for political candidates who understand our water issues and offer responsible solutions.

An easy way to learn water basics is to visit the CWAG website: www.cwagaz.org. Our website is a valuable community resource that contains maps, scientific reports, Talk of the Town editorials written by CWAG authors and published in the Daily Courier, a video archive of our public meetings, a calendar of water events, back copies of our popular electronic newsletter (News and Views), information about how to access our Speakers Bureau, and current happenings, such as the date and time of our next public meeting.

You will also find a list of web links to other water organizations. You can point and click your way to almost any water topic that interests you. Or you can contact CWAG directly for answers to specific questions at info@cwagaz.org.

Conserving water, indoors and out, should be as automatic for all Arizona citizens as recycling paper and plastic. We're all accustomed to pushing our big blue containers to the curb on trash day because we understand that recycling helps conserve resources. In the Southwest, water is a limited resource. Conserving local water helps reduce the amount of much more expensive water we will eventually need to import.

CWAG is currently creating new water conservation content to be displayed on our website, including demonstration videos, landscaping tips and information about low-water-use plants. This new section will also provide links to other sources of information, including the City of Prescott's excellent water conservation web pages. These two sites and others will enable citizens to learn about indoor water conservation devices, rainwater harvesting techniques, xeriscaping, incentive programs and more.

Conserving water is important and it is an activity that every citizen can participate in. Although all forms of water conservation are helpful, almost one-third of the potable water consumed in the tri-city area each year is used outdoors and outside water can't be recycled.

We can cut that consumption down dramatically if we can collectively agree that a water conservation ethic is a logical cultural adaptation for people living in this part of the country. Although some Arizona communities prefer to think of themselves as an "oasis in the desert," proudly displaying large lawns, fountains, and other water-consuming features, others have decided to utilize xeriscaping, native plants, rainwater harvesting and a myriad of other conservation techniques in order to minimize the use of potable water outdoors.

CWAG would like to encourage everyone in Yavapai County to adopt water conservation as both a common-sense goal and an economic benefit.

Every year CWAG hosts a candidate forum focused solely on the subject of water. This year we have invited all six state legislative candidates running for office in Legislative District One (Steve Pierce, Frank Cuccia, Noel Campbell, Karen Fann, Linda Gray, Sean Englund). We have sent them advance copies of the water questions we intend to ask during the forum and have also posted the questions on our website. We provide table space for each attending candidate so, before and after the forum, they can display their campaign literature, meet and greet voters, and answer unscripted questions.

The candidates will be asked to state their opinions about a variety of complex and controversial topics: water importation, Arizona water law, impact fees, regional cooperation and the state's role in helping rural areas finance new water infrastructure projects. These are the water issues CWAG believes state legislators should be grappling with right now.

The CWAG Candidate Forum will take place on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation building, 882 Sunset Avenue (two blocks behind True Value Hardware), from 10 a.m. until 12 noon. We hope to see you there!

Submit your questions and comments to info@cwagaz.org.

Chris Hoy is president of the Citizens Water Advocacy Group.