CAP is not enough

Printed in Green Valley News Comments/Feb. 25, 2007

I have tried hard these past several years to make people understand the tough spot that Green Valley is in concerning water. The water officials may support CAP delivery to Green Valley, but they will never say that it is enough to avoid subsidence.

Here are the water usage percentages for Green Valley:

45% FICO — grandfathered
45% Mining — grandfathered and exempt
5% Golf Courses — all courses built before 1995 are grandfathered.
5% Municipal
This means Department of Water Resources (DWR) can only manage 5% of the water in Green Valley.

Water was grandfathered (agriculture) and exempt (industry) all over Arizona by the Groundwater Code to continue “as is” any usage before 1980. In other words, the “powers that be” (ie. agriculture and mining) got to keep their water usage at status quo and any real planning has been avoided—even in the AMA’s. So the Water Resources Agency only manages about 15% - 20% of the water statewide—except for CAP water. So obviously they spend a lot of time advocating the use of CAP water.

Green Valley has a deficit of 31,000 acre feet per year. Green Valley has CAP allocations of 5,000 acre feet per year. Obviously, 5,000 acre feet are not going to do anything about the potential subsidence. The Tucson AMA modeling study shows that the Green Valley area water levels will be down some 150 feet by 2025. Remember—this does not matter to the Tucson DWR people because somewhere else up in Marana will have an overage of water, so it will average out— but not give us any water at all!

I don’t object to bringing CAP water to Green Valley. I have talked extensively with Eric Holler with the Bureau of Reclamation, who wants to get Federal funds to do a study of the various possibilities here, including CAP delivery. They are knowledgeable and would consider all alternatives. They were presenters at the national conference on capturing and using storm water, which was held in Tucson last September. Unfortunately, Federal money is tight due to Katrina and the Iraq War. And I was in the ADWR meeting last May when it was announced that the $100 million payment from Nevada storage would be available for CAP water projects. I was the first to speak up: “What is Green Valley’s share.”

Stormwater Guru
So I do not understand why no one is talking about additional remedies that are much cheaper and easier that we could have started working on two years ago. I brought information on recharge basins that are effectively being used in Chandler. We could do a project for some $50,000. We need to put reservoirs in the hillsides that would deliver clean rainwater by gravity—that’s what they do in Colorado. We need to have recharge projects on the golf courses to mitigate their high water use. Several people who were going to talk to golf management about such projects have made no headway.

I have been attending a University of Arizona class given by Jim Riley, with presentations by Brad Lancaster—the stormwater guru. Two graduate students from the class are working on a project to figure calculations on delivering storm water from a subdivision to one or two golf holes. Depending on the amounts of water, a cistern could be used to store water for future use, or a dry well could be used to enhance the possibility of recharging the aquifer. Remember, the groundwater levels are receding at about 2 feet per year, so that makes recharging more difficult.

Further, we can just go out to our local wash and dig a deep hole to enable water to soak in and stay longer. That’s what I am doing in my own back yard. Yes, I have to dig it out after every hard rain—but I need the exercise!

What is the cost?
The DWR feasibility study in 1999 showed that it would cost $28 million for the pipes and infrastructure to bring CAP to Elephant Head via Green Valley. Now they are proposing a shorter and simpler route that could cost around $10 million. Now may I be so presumptuous as to ask a simple question: If CAP is going to cost some $10 million and that’s the water we need to use or lose—why didn’t we have PD pay for that delivery instead of paying some $12 million to dig and refurbish two news wells that are going to last some 30 years?

One of the problems is that the community has little confidence in Community Water Company. The company management did nothing but deny and obscure the mining contamination problem until local activists took on the project. They would not even provide co-op members with data—which is mandated for a public utility. This is the problem with not having a public utility that is responsible to the users and has some foresight in planning. Unfortunately, too many times, the water company’s decisions appear to be based on getting new customers. The last thing that we need—even if we get CAP water!!

We may have some leverage
I think we do have some leverage for getting some of the $100 million—maybe gratis. We all bought and built here assuming that there was adequate water. When we hooked up to a water company, we assumed that they had adequate water—which in Arizona means 100 year supply pumping down to 1,000 feet (planned depletion—what will be do then???). However, none of the water companies in Green Valley have assured water supply designations. Then why may I ask have they been continuing to be able to add new customers? It’s a question worth investigating.

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