My husband gassed the car at the Circle K in Phoenix where 18 years previous on prom night our driver gassed the limo. Nothing much had changed at that particular Circle K but so much of Phoenix, and Mesa and the Valley of the Sun had changed since then. Back in 1988, on prom night, I was drunk in the back of that limo and again here I was, same corner, different car, still drunk. An analogy of Phoenix, really, and its growth. To go so far and yet to be in the same place.
So it is my job now to make sure that Mesa, a city of 450,000 souls bordering Phoenix, some day a city of 650,000 souls, has water one hundred years from now. No other state in the union, no other place, has requirements regarding water planning that are so strict. But no other city, save probably Las Vegas, is so desert bound and yet experiences such cataclysmic growth. Mesa, Phoenix, the rest of the Valley of the Sun, were all built on prophetic water planning and it is a standard we water planners hold to. Prophesy.
Fitting, really, since it was prophesy that first brought my Mormon ancestors to this desert some 150 years ago. Back then, an escape from the federal government for both Indian and Mormon, the last frontier, the last refuge and the last bit of the continental U.S. that was unspoiled. What Mormon, what Indian, was prophetic enough to know that our most insidious enemy, an enemy that would devour both the desert and our way of life, would arrive in the form of old people from Michigan driving Winnebagos and wearing flip-flops? Who could have known?
Many say that we will dry up and blow away some day, just as the ancient Hohokam cities did in this same alluvial valley. I know this to be false, and I know the same people who say these things are the ones that arrive daily from the rainy places back East. They do not know what it means to live in a desert, and they do not know what it means to grow incessantly, unremittingly, tirelessly. But I know.
I know what it is to watch the Sonoran Desert, the most beautiful landscape on this planet, get eaten alive, acre by acre, by environmentalists from back east and California, those who want to move here and then close the gate behind them. I know what it is to feel the close-knit society of my Mormon religion slowly weather away at the demands of a larger, stronger, greater population.
And I know that were it not for growth, were it not for the influx of new ideas, new peoples, new beliefs, that I would likely have been, rather than the well-educated water advisor for a city the size of Minneapolis, the fourteen-year-old child bride of the local Mormon patriarch.
This I know. Growth is no more evil than it is good. Growth is no more good than it is evil. Growth is change that blindly helps some and hurts others without mercy. Growth is the generous thing that spared me from an early death during childbearing in an adobe hut in the desert remote from medicine, and growth is the thing that scrapes the native plants from the earth to make way for the ugly ones, the palm trees, the hibiscus, the transplants from Ohio.
We will succeed here in Mesa, this old pioneer town of the new west. We will not dry up and blow away. We will build a better community, a conglomeration of people and ideas never seen before. We will change and grow, and, like my prophetic ancestors before me, I will make sure we have enough water to do so.
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