With fire service a key issue in the District 22 legislative race, water has appeared as an important secondary topic. No, the six candidates for the Republican primary in September aren’t talking about setting up a bucket brigade to douse fires in the Gilbert area.
They are talking about water conservation, and how to ensure water remains in large enough supply in Arizona’s desert as the development boom continues.
Gilbert has been at the forefront in campaigns to conserve and recycle water, with riparian preserves functioning both as water recycling plants and parks.
A town water conservation expert helps homeowners associations choose the best times for watering plants.
So while the issue may seem out of place, it has sparked discussion during debates among incumbents, Sen. Thayer Verschoor and Reps. Andy Biggs and Eddie Farnsworthand their challengers, Joe Bedgood for Senate and Karl Kohlhoff and Terri Tobey for the House.
Kohlhoff, a water expert for Mesa, said he wants whomever is elected to become the new water advocate and expert at the state Capitol. An educated advocate, he said, has been missing since former Sen. Herb Guenther became director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
“Everybody talks about water conservation,” Kohlhoff said. “What we need is a sustainable supply.”
That could include agreements with other states and even Mexico to share and pipe water, he said. Conservation alone does not create enough of a supply since only a certain percentage ends up reused, Kohlhoff said.
In 2000, Arizona passed the Growing Smarter legislation, which requires cities and towns to make plans for the future, ensuring that in some way they are going to receive and have enough water for their residents — something Kohlhoff says many have not done.
Other candidates said they believe conservation is the key in a desert climate. They also said there is still time to investigate and plan for the best response to any future water issues.
“We don’t need to be alarmists,” Biggs said. “We need to do careful, deliberate planning.”