Water is the lifeblood of this state. What we have and get determines our ability to exist and grow as a state.

While we must find ways of bringing new water to Arizona over the next 100 years, we should also look at what has been done and how we can conserve existing water in the systems that were designed a hundred years ago. One example is San Carlos Lake, Coolidge Dam and the San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District system.

A recent study indicates that we have been losing at least 500,000 acre-feet of water over the last 10 years because of a lack of proper infrastructure to move the water. That’s enough water for 1 million homes easily. Now multiply that over the last 50 years. It’s astonishing to say the least.

We have an opportunity to complete an existing water infrastructure project today and make it one of the best systems for Arizona by closing the door on water waste. We can do this by completing the much-needed ditch lining and construction of a new reservoir near I-10 and I-8. When I read reports that say, “This system contains over 200 miles of unlined canals and laterals and is more than 100 years old, it unavoidably loses excessive amounts of water and urgently needs improvement given persistent drought conditions in the region,” I want to get to work and get this fixed.

I am asking political leaders of both parties at the local, county, state and federal levels to join together and get this project funded in the next federal infrastructure bill that is passed. Arizonans need it to provide quality water management and stability in this system and the operators of the system need the resources they have been without for so long to get the job done.

When we focus on how to conserve what we have now, everybody wins as a result of making our limited resources go further and do more. We need multiple solutions to solve the water issues facing our state. Conservation has and should continue to play a key role in balancing water needs with available supplies.

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Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, represents Legislative District 8 in the state House.

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