IN 1967, TUCSON'S water wars nearly went nuclear. Seems the clever minds of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, having done a lot of thinking about the Old Pueblo's water supply, had come up with a plan to help with water management: creating a reservoir in Sabino Canyon by setting off an atomic bomb.
The plan leaked at a meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association, when Col. Norman E. Pehrson told an audience that "studies have shown that a nuclear device could create a crater which would serve as a reservoir."
Pehrson noted a slight downside: "The main problem with the use of the nuclear explosion would be the contamination of the water with radioactive materials."
By all means, let's let the experts solve our water problems.
THIS CURIOUS anecdote is buried halfway through a county memorandum exploring the history of recharge studies in Tucson since the late '50s. But what's more noteworthy than the government's fondness for nuclear toys (this wasn't the only atomic project under study) is how thin the report is. It was only relatively recently that overdrafting became a worry in our parched desert--about the same time that our population began skyrocketing, in fact.
"Until the late 1970s," the report notes, "concern about declining water tables was not significant and there was little encouragement, at the local as well as federal levels, for groundwater augmentation programs."
What few studies there were, however, repeatedly suggested the same thing: the Rillito Creek was an ideal spot for recharge.
The city and county even entered into an agreement to build a recharge project using CAP water in the Rillito in the early 1990s--but Tucson Water backed out when it came time to deliver the CAP water. At the time, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry remembers, it was because Tucson Water's management said they wouldn't have enough CAP water to spare.
And never mind that the $5 billion CAP was sold to Congress and the Tucson public as a means of assuring plenty of wholesome groundwater for our thirsty community. Never mind that, as originally envisioned, the mines and cotton farmers were to be given the salty Colorado River piss to pour over their slag heaps and heavily fertilized dustbowls. Never mind that somewhere along the line, without a public vote, the big ditch suddenly and inexplicably became the main fuel line for our desert's all but unregulated urban sprawl.
And the continued connivance of ungovernable bureaucrats and corrupt politicians who serve the Growth Lobby perpetuates a shameless filibuster against the people, who have made clear their desires in two previous votes.
Oddly, since the Water Consumer Protection Act passed as Proposition 200 in 1995, the Rillito has undergone a transformation. It's suddenly the worst possible place to recharge water.
Who says science is never influenced by politics?
MUCH OF THIS election is riding on the reputation of Tucson Water, and its new director, David Modeer. Modeer and his administration admit Tucson Water screwed up when they first delivered CAP water. Now they claim it's a new Tucson Water, dedicated to listening to the consumer and delivering safe, appealing water.
That's pure horse piss.
A big test came recently, when the EPA was preparing to set a limit on radon gas levels in water. It's a complicated subject, but it's clear that Tucson Water seized on the issue to set the stage for a bogus water crisis. During an "emergency" meeting of the City Council, the water morons told our elected officials they might have to turn off half our wells and deliver CAP water.
That was certainly one option, although it wouldn't have kept you safer from radon gas, if you're unlucky enough to be living in one of the few homes suspected to harbor the gas.
Another option--one which an acting head of Tucson Water thought was a better way to go in 1998--would be to participate in a multi-media mitigation program that would include a public-relations campaign to inform the people of Tucson about the real dangers of radon gas. Those few who might be affected could then seek help.
But Tucson Water is now concerned that such a public-relations campaign might not reach enough people. It's a curious complaint, given that the utility is spending about $25,000 a month in a media blitz to assure us that Tucson Water can be trusted again.
AND THEN THERE'S Jim Click's Coalition for an Assured Water Supply. The group has raised more than $700,000 for its media blitz against Prop 200. Who has contributed to the campaign? Well, how about mega-developer Diamond Ventures ($25,000); Holmes Tuttle Ford ($25,000); billboard bully Karl Eller ($25,000); Pulte Home Corporation ($25,000); Cottonwood Properties, Inc., ($25,000); Bank One ($25,000); Kaufman and Broad Homebuilders ($25,000);The Sunot Companies, Inc.($25,000); U.S. Homes ($25,000); Compass Bank ($25,000); Fairfield Green Valley ($20,000); the Ashton Company ($15,000); Canoa Development, Inc. ($10,000); Royal Automotive ($10,000); and Tom Quebedeaux ($10,000).
Between Tucson Water's PR campaign and Click's group, they've thrown more than $1 million at you to get you to see things their way. Come Tuesday, we'll find out whether that money has been well spent.
Their slogan: Get the politics out of our water. What they're really saying is get the politics out of the open and back behind closed doors and in the hands of the "experts" where it belongs. Then we can get back to bulldozing the desert for our master-planned stuccopods, each complete with 18 holes, and you can swallow what we serve you.
Prop 200 is far from perfect. Parts of it won't survive a court challenge. But it will put to rest once and for all the question of whether recharge in the central well field is possible. And it will send a message to Tucson Water that we don't buy phony radon scares and multi-million-dollar propaganda puke.
Vote Yes for Prop 200. If it doesn't work, we can always try setting off a nuke in Sabino Canyon. Or better yet, we can nuke Jim Click.