Water is the lifeblood of our communities. This natural resource nourishes every aspect of Arizona, from our people to our economy. As Governor Ducey has outlined, water requires a proactive and pragmatic approach with local consultation to ensure that each of the 22 water planning areas across Arizona are being effectively managed and protected.
In Cochise County, we are partnering with the City of Sierra Vista on some of the most proactive and effective water conservation efforts in the county. In fact, the Sierra Vista City Council has consistently made decisive conservation choices since 1985, earning national accolades and leading Arizona with smart water-use programs. Prior to serving on the Cochise County Board of Supervisors, I spent 10 years on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission evaluating and supporting development code changes that make Sierra Vista’s new subdivisions among the most water conscious in the Southwest.
Leading the way for Cochise County and its other cities, Sierra Vista was the first city in the United States to be designated as a WaterSense community by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sierra Vista, Cochise County and the region serve as proactive stewards of water and our collective efforts have resulted in significant local policies that recharge this precious resource and focus on more efficient use of water in residential and commercial development. The city and county take the long view approach to water and want to ensure that we all have the necessary resources to sustain our communities today and for our children and grandchildren.
This local approach to water management serves us well as we all partner with the Arizona Department of Water Resources which provides oversight and has validated our work while ensuring accountability. In fact, through its monitoring and long-term storage calculations, ADWR has determined that since 2002, Sierra Vista has recharged nearly 4 billion gallons of water to the aquifer through its wastewater system, the largest water conservation effort in the region. Add to that the significant efforts of Fort Huachuca, Cochise County and other public and private organizations connected through a first-of-its –kind collaboration, the Upper San Pedro Partnership, and it is clear our region serves as a model for communities all over the country experiencing water challenges.
Our commitment to conserve water is unwavering; however, a state law adopted by Cochise County as one more layer of water protection in 2007 has resulted in unintended consequences. Sierra Vista and other communities in the county are subjected to additional water planning restrictions on new subdivisions with no approval by their governing bodies. There are no other laws relating to subdivision approval where counties make decisions on behalf of cities and towns, and this must be corrected. Growth decisions impact the quality of life and economic development of every municipality in the state, which is why those decisions are made by their respective city councils. Senator Griffin’s SB1268 will restore the ability of cities to establish water adequacy requirements that reflect the needs of the community. This important legislation simply provides cities and towns the opportunity to assess what is right for their communities. It’s clear from the actions of Sierra Vista to date that its elected body has prioritized water conservation through definitive, results-oriented ordinances, programs and partnerships. There is no reason to expect that if such planning decisions are returned to the city council where they belong, that Sierra Vista will choose an alternative path.
— Pat Call is a member of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors.