Snow joke

I guess we can leave the skinny skis in the garage.

Well, it must be true, if both The New York Times and The Washington Post simultaneously catch up to the sad story about Rio Verde Foothills, where dreams go to die in the dust.

It’s an old story, with the new wrinkle being Scottsdale finally putting a cork in water sales to Rio Verde, saying it had to consider its own residents first and foremost. From the WaPo:

“The city cannot be responsible for the water needs of a separate community especially given its unlimited and unregulated growth,” the city manager’s office wrote in December.

The stories share a squeaky wheel — Cody Reim, who has a wife and four kids, works for the family’s sheet-metal business, and is looking at a water bill that could surpass the tab for his mortgage, when he’s not chatting up the national press. Again, from the WaPo:

“I thought, this is the United States of America, we do so much in humanitarian aid to other countries that don’t have water, they’re not going to let taxpaying citizens of this county go without water,” he said.

“You don’t think this could happen,” he added. “You have this belief that there’s going to be help.”

I have sympathy for the Reim family. Like them, we chose to live in a sandbox — the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert — and our water gets humped uphill to El Rancho Pendejo via a series of pumping stations. If we paid what this liquid gold is actually worth, or had to fetch it here by bike or burro, you can bet your ass we’d use a lot less of it.

Either that or we’d move to where the water is. Yet here we are.

Deciding to build your base camp in the desert is magical thinking going toe to toe with mathematics. As John Fleck observes in his ongoing Dead Pool Diaries, decent runoff this year will not change the fact that Colorado River water is overallocated and always has been.

“It’s just arithmetic!” he says.

If God wanted us here, He would’ve stored more agua fria under the rocks and cacti. But clearly He wasn’t expecting quite so much company.

“Hey, you come to the desert to get wisdom, 40 days and nights, tops. And then you go back where you came from. You silly sods never went back.”

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19 Responses to “Snow joke”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Yep. We were reading that this morning. You can buy all the “water rights” you want, but that doesn’t mean the water will be there.

    • SAO’ Says:

      “Water rights” means about the same thing as a state college parking permit. You bought the right to park in Lot A, provided the other 40,000 permit holders didn’t beat you to the 800 spaces.

  2. JD Says:

    Amigos: I know I’m beating a dead, dare I say desiccated, horse here yet again, also, and too. But I heartily recommend “A Great Aridness” by William duBuys. Published 12 years ago; but prescient and spot on WRT water in the US SW.

  3. Shawn Says:

    I wonder though, how much water the Reim family uses. Do they shower every day? Do they turn the water off while soaping up in the shower? Do they flush their toilets every use? A preliminary check for Scottsdale, AZ indicates their residential water rates are significantly less than what I pay in my marginally dry location in Oregon. Perhaps the water use “thought” of all the residents in the desert areas need to be a bit more serious. People can live in the desert but they need to think a lot more like Ed Abbey and a lot less like a property developer. A quick lesson for most people would be for them to have to haul all of their own water. Residents in interior Alaska learn real fast how to conserve water, especially when you have to get it in the middle of winter.

    Oh, and I’m speaking from the top of a dry soap box.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      According to the WaPo:

      Cody Reim … normally pays $380 a month for the roughly 10,000 gallons per month he consumes along with his wife and four young children. If his family continues to use water at the same pace, the new prices will put his next bill at $1,340 per month, he said, almost as much as his mortgage payment.

      As he’s in a starter home I doubt he has a well; he’s probably having water trucked in like his neighbors. And the truckers have to drive more to find the liquid gold, and diesel costs more than water, so the price keeps going up.

      My old man bought land in Ash Fork, Arizona, when I was a sprout. There was no water there, and as a consequence there was not (and is not) much there there. People had their water trucked in, as they do down to Rio Verde Foothills.

      My sister and I finally sold the property, which was the only land I ever heard of that actually shed value over the decades.

      Of all the things we take for granted the king may be turning a knob and watching water flow out of a faucet. !Que milagro!

    • khal spencer Says:

      Santa Fe has a three tier water rate system that gets uglier to the consumer in the summer. I suspect that ugly will at some point extend to the entire year. My wife chews through the checkbook with her Exterior Decorations, aka, plants, during the irrigation months. Even then we have lost about half the plants to death or xeriscaping and zeroscaping (gravel) in the last six years. Can only get worse.

      Considering the population of the American SW in the period ca. 800-1500 A.D. was a tiny fraction of today’s and that they had to abandon their cities during the worst of megadroughts, I am not optimistic about the future of the Southwest, even if we go back to shitting in a hole in the ground and showering once a week. Eeeew…maybe time to buy deodorant futures.

  4. Pat O’Brien Says:

    That’s really rich for Scottsdale to tell another community you can’t have unregulated growth. Gee, I thought growth is good. We must have growth! Isn’t that the AZ state motto? Wait till Scottsdale doesn’t get any Central Arizona Project water, which come from the Colorado River, this summer. Talk about some rich folks pissin’ and moanin’.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I remember visiting Scottsdale when I was a kid. Our family drove up from Texas to visit an uncle and cousins. The place looked considerably different back in the mid-Sixties. Gourmet grocery stores and recreational surgery hadn’t come into vogue yet, though even then homeowners insisted on having their own swimming pools.

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      I think one of the readers of your excellent and tasteful blog lives in Fountain Hills. I would be interested in hearing their angle on this story.

    • SAO’ Says:

      Sidebar: The entire concept of a city is ridiculous. Made sense when it took 6 days to walk from one edge of town to the next. But now half your residents work in another county, half your workers live someplace else.

      Thanks to cars, computers, and electricity, we should defund every single mayor’s office, and combine counties into clusters of 4-5.

      And don’t get me started on why we don’t need two Dakotas, Delaware and RI, Vermont and New Hampshire.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Charles P. Pierce was going on about counties the other day, in connection with (I think) the idea that the county sheriff is The Only Official Who Matters in America for reasons that appear to elude both of us.

        And, like, yeah. For reals. How many layers of government/taxation do we require in this day and age? Bibleburg and El Paso County; The Duck! City and Bernalillo County. C’mon. The private sector has been consolidating forever, with results both good and bad, but governmentally we stagger drunkenly along that same old road.

        • JD Says:

          Wow! The comments on numbers and layers of cities, counties, police departments/Sheriff’s Departments, fire departments, etc. really struck home for me. Our Bibleburg and El Paso County Emergency Ops Centers somewhat recently consolidated in one facility to “improve coordination” ….. and hopefully to save money and man-/woman-power. Ditto two of our County Fire Departments merging after at least a decade of resistance.
          Am I/are we speaking with forked tongue when I/we rejoice in that, but rail against the “Bigs” gobbling up the small independent newspapers, media organizations, healthcare organizations, etc. so as to save on overhead and provide “economies of scale”?
          Are size and responsiveness/effectiveness inversely proportional and in continuous tension?
          For profit entities, even not-for-profit entities, are different from government entities I believe in culture, motivation, incentives, focus, organizational dynamics/efficiency, and frequently responsiveness.
          So many questions, so few answers! 🙂

          • SAO’ Says:

            Forked tongue?

            Look, if the status quo is working, then more power to ya. But if we’re just kicking the can down the road because of inertia, then why not make it more efficient.

            So few answers … you’re right there. The answers are few indeed. Inertia and power. That’s it. They’re the answer to most of our public policy questions.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          Someone must have crunched the numbers by now … there are city-county setups to be studied (Denver, Pueblo, etc.)

          The biggest hurdle might be that police chiefs are appointed while sheriffs are elected. And there are unions to be considered as well.

          “I see many horses’ asses going in but none coming out. …”

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        Mr. Pierce is onto something there. Maybe he lived in Kentucky for awhile. With 200 sheriffs, they could rule the world.

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