Dipping into the water well will cost plenty in the years to come

The city council decided the city now will charge contractors for reclaimed water from the city's wastewater treatment plant. Area contractors use the water for soil compaction and dust control at the rate of about 5,000 gallons a day.

Contractors will pay a $12.50 monthly base charge, which includes the first 1,000 gallons. It will cost 92 cents per 1,000 gallons after that. Smaller users can pay by the load for a $3 filling charge, which includes the first 1,000 gallons, and the additional 92 cents per 1,000 gallons after that. The city started treating the water at the new wastewater treatment facility in June 2002. Since then, 181,200 gallons have been hauled away free of charge.

The days of Arizonans viewing water as a commodity that comes from a well that will never run dry are coming to an end. Our current drought cycle and the water wars with Prescott have forced us to take a close look at how we use, re-use and conserve water. In Clarkdale, for example, the town park is anything but an oasis of green these days. It's the reality of a town government that leads by example and takes water conservation seriously.

We've entered an era in which water providers will have to closely examine the rates they charge. High-end users — those who refuse to conserve — can expect considerably higher rates in the future.

Rural Arizona in particular, which doesn't have the luxury of Central

Arizona Project and Salt River Project water, has had to make tough decisions regarding water use the past few years. It's a trend that will continue.

Conservation is the name of the game today. The more we conserve, the better off we all are.

What water we do use, we're certainly going to pay for it.

And it's not going to get cheaper.

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