Southern Arizona has many things working in its favor: a desirable climate, breathtaking natural beauty, a world-class university and a highly skilled workforce. But without true regionalism in which every city and town is allowed to set its own course for success to the benefit of all who live here, Pima County will fall short of its limitless potential.
That’s why the Town of Marana recently worked with members of the Southern Arizona delegation to introduce a bill at the Arizona State Legislature that would have a positive effect on our region. Senate Bill 1171 is all about water, which is necessary to create quality jobs for local citizens. Marana sits atop a rising aquifer and must ensure its long-term sustainability for its residents and businesses. Owning and operating an efficient wastewater system is required to guarantee that sustainability.
Even though we don’t often think about it, wastewater is a major part of our region’s future. State law requires that every gallon of water pumped from the ground be replaced by another gallon of available water resource. That’s where effluent comes into play. Using effluent helps municipalities avoid paying large sums to acquire water from other sources, keeping residents’ and business owners’ monthly bills affordable.
SB 1171 would transfer to the town pipes located in Marana that were already paid for by Marana citizens and businesses. While Maricopa County Superior Court has already awarded the town most of the pipes within its boundaries, the bill would finalize that transfer and allow Marana to take ownership of a wastewater plant that serves only its citizens. The bill also requires the town to pay any debt associated with that treatment facility, ensuring there is no additional cost to Pima County ratepayers.
Without this legislation, Marana would be required to purchase pipes that Pima County never paid for and a plant that the county’s citizens have already funded through fees charged whenever a new home or business is built in the region.
SB 1171 would give Marana the same rights as every other city and town in the state outside of Pima County. Marana would be able to construct additional plants and pipes throughout the community that would facilitate economic growth and job creation in a time that such activity is desperately needed by our state. The town has conducted multiple studies that prove there’s an alternative to Pima County’s rapidly rising sewer rates and ensure a competitive business climate for our region’s future.
Pima County has provided sewer service to Marana by contract since 1979 and has mismanaged the existing system, even drawing the ire of federal and state regulatory agencies. The county faces a $1 billion bill to bring both of its regional plants into compliance with federal regulations while, at the same time, wasting enough water resource to serve 90,000 homes every year by sending effluent down the Santa Cruz River into Pinal County. After years of failing to properly plan for maintenance and improvements, the county is funding these necessary upgrades by charging astronomically higher rates for sewer service. In a time of economic crisis, many citizens across Pima County are paying more for the wastewater portion of their bills than what they are charged for drinking water, our most precious resource. This type of mismanagement is unacceptable and our citizens deserve better.
SB 1171 would allow Marana to operate an efficient wastewater system for its residents and businesses so that they can create an atmosphere of economic prosperity. Every city and town must be able to determine its own future in a practical and responsible manner. That’s all Marana wants, and those goals can be reached to the benefit of the entire region.
Ed Honea is the mayor of Marana.