Verde Independent: The City of Cottonwood has some control over water conservation and its allocation, but the County has very little. How might you encourage water conservation, and therefore Verde River conservation, given the County's limited resources and authority over water issues?
Garrison: The County can lead by example through water conservation practices such as:
Continue and expand excellent educational programs like "Project WET"
Encourage land use practices that support "water smart" development
Promote density transfers that encourage higher densities, more open space, fewer lot splits and less landscaping which reduces total water use
Incentivize water smart development through fast track permitting processes and less restrictive higher density requirements
Establish voluntary water use offset programs that encourage developers to contribute to off-site water conservation projects in exchange for incentives that lower development costs and decrease permitting times
The County should also take the initiative to recreate a County-wide Water Advisory Committee. It is imperative that the County and ALL cities and towns cooperate to identify our water and growth challenges more thoroughly and support making sustainable water decisions. These are regional challenges and will require regional solutions.
Verde Independent: The Verde Valley, by Yavapai County WAC estimates, could increase in population from its current 65,000 (±), to more than 200,000 in the next 35 years. In light of that future population, how will you help meet the water demands of these new residents, while at the same time making sure the Verde River continues to flow and continue to provide a healthy ecosystem and a healthy economy for the people of the Verde Valley?
Garrison: The economic well-being of the Verde Valley is increasingly connected to a continuously flowing Verde River and a healthy river ecosystem. The USGS has been very clear in saying that every gallon consumed by wells in the Verde Valley is a gallon that doesn't make it into the Verde River.
The goal of all new development needs to be "net zero" water consumption. Yavapai County can incentivize water-smart development by adopting policies that reduce average water consumption such as:
native or xeriscape landscaping that can lower average water consumption by as much as 2/3
efficient water-saving appliances
gray-water use and rainwater harvesting
These practices in new and existing residential, as well as commercial applications can bring the average daily consumption down to levels that allow construction of quality, comfortable homes and commercial properties without increasing water consumption. Water-smart policies are in all of our best interests.
Verde Independent: What do you see as the main challenges for the future of the Verde Valley and what will you do to meet those challenges?
Garrison: Growth, economic development, natural resources, and workforce development (education) are challenges with difficult solutions made harder due to limited financial resources. This is why collaboration within our communities and across the County is essential.
In the competition for County resources necessary to address these challenges, our region will need a leader with determination and advocacy experience. In addition to having deep roots and relationships that go back generations, I am an honest and hard-working businessman. I have served on Council, School Boards and committees, creating opportunities while scrutinizing every nickel and dime. I have been successful in collaborating with others, recognizing that their interests and mine were often the same.
The Verde Valley's interests are my interests, and we won't be able to protect those interests unless we can build strong relationships within our communities and with the Supervisors from other districts. I am the person who can do that.
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