Looking for solutions to depletion
of our water supply
Appeared in Green Valley News Comments 1/15/06
Here’s the catch: There’s no station to recharge CAP water in Green Valley. Seems like a formidable problem, but its no problem at all to the water authorities--for the balance only has to exist on paper. In other words, the water is required to be put back into the groundwater on behalf of Green Valley homeowners and builders can be recharged to groundwater 10 miles downstream at Pima Mine Road CAP Station—or even at the Marana CAP Station. On paper, legally, this recharge is a balance, a “safe yield.” But that is paper water, not real water. Frankly, this paper water is not going to quench our thirst.
Study on bringing CAP water to Green Valley
The crux of the matter was that it would cost 28 million dollars to put in the pipelines to bring water uphill to Green Valley. On top of that cost, there was the continual cost of pumping water uphill 1,000 feet, or “delivery” cost. The report didn’t even mention the additional costs of treatment of the “chemically distinct” water.
Green Valley Water Company has allocations for 1,900 acre feet annually and Community Water has allocations for 1,337 acre feet annually. The two major users of water--Phelps Dodge Corporation and Farmers Investment Corporation (Pecan Orchards)--do not have any allocations for CAP water. In other words, 28 million dollars (that was in 1998, it would be appreciably higher now) to bring water to serve only 5% of the water use in Green Valley did not seem feasible or sensible. The idea of using CAP water in Green Valley disappeared into the desert dust along with USCWUG.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation are both committed to the idea of bring CAP water here as the only solution. However, neither agency has made any move to do anything about it. When I called Eric Holler at the Bureau of Reclamation, he told her, “I’ve been expecting a call from someone in Green Valley. I knew it would come one of these days.” The management at these two agencies maintains that since the water companies in Green Valley have to pay for water treatment anyway, because of the lower level of arsenic mandated by EPA, the cost of treating CAP water will not matter. We must remember that CAP water is so nasty that when it was delivered directly in Tucson, it actually destroyed pipes. Tusconians have refused to use it without treatment.
Do We Really Want CAP Water?
However, there is one advantage of the use of CAP water that is worthy of consideration. I voiced concern to water authorities, questioning if there is going to be any Colorado River water at all, since I personally witnessed the river flowing a city block away from boat docks in southern Utah last spring. I was told that, should there be a serious water shortage, allocations to people (municipalities and Native Americans) will have first priority. In such an event, water pipelines to agriculture and industry will be shut down.
Actually, the water treatment rationalization might have been valid if someone had done something about bringing CAP water to Green Valley before 2006, so there could have been one water treatment plant built for all users at the CAP outlet (actually two outlets, since the plan was to bring a pipeline down each side of the freeway). As it is now, Community Water is installing four treatment plants to remove arsenic, Green Valley Water two plants, Las Quintas Serrenas at least one, and FICO may have to install one also, so who will have the money to build another treatment plant for CAP water? And every water authority knows it would require an entirely different type of treatment plant.
In addition to the capital costs to pay for the water allotment (Community water paid $422,492 capital fee with an on-going annual fee of $67,411) and to finance the 28 million (plus inflation and interest) for the installation of pipes, there is the cost of delivery. This means the cost of electricity to pump water 1,000 feet uphill over some 10 miles--continually. Has anyone considered the amount of water it would take to produce the electricity? Power plants are one of the biggest water users. So the obvious question arises: Are there any alternatives?
Benefits of other solutions
The Bureau of Reclamation is now working on a couple of projects in the San Pedro River. [Note: The San Pedro is the only naturally flowing river west of the Mississippi – all others have been damned and/or artificially diverted in some way!] They are installing micro-basins in washes in Sierra Vista and doing some work in the river bed, such as creating berms to slow down the flow of water in critical areas, so it has time to penetrate the ground. These models can possibly be repeated here.
Pollution of Water is Depletion too
The efforts to recharge water need to be community wide. The golf courses use as much water as all the residents of Green Valley and Sauharita put together (3,600 acre feet annually). These courses all have low-lying sites that would make perfect recharge spots and the red tape would be much less since they would be on private property. [It takes a permit from Army Corp of Engineers to do any work in the river bed or its tributaries]. In addition, it could be stipulated that new subdivisions install dry wells for recharge and flood control, just as they are doing in Chandler and Scottsdale.
Since the residents in Green Valley only use 5% of the water use, it is easy to have an attitude: “what good does it do for us to conserve?” However, there are projects that residents can use to beautify their own property, while saving water. There is an incredible variety of low water use native plants that have showy flowers that attract birds and butterflies. Nurseries are stocking more of these plants and many have a water-use rating for each plant. The Groundwater Awareness League has information on these plants along with methods of using gray water and catching rain water
The longer we wait, the deeper the groundwater, the more the sediments compact, and the less likely storm water will reach the groundwater, making natural recharge more and more difficult. The Groundwater Awareness League wants something done now as far as creating a viable plan for enhance recharge. To facilitate this plan, they are arranging a meeting of representatives of all the concerned agencies who can give some input as to the most feasible plan. The participants would include the Bureau of Reclamation, USGS, AZ Department of Water Resources, and managers from the local water companies, Phelps Dodge and FICO, along with experts from Tucson Water Company.
No one considers that the situation is at a critical state yet. However, the experts need to decide on a plan, so the first steps can be implemented. The residents of Green Valley want to know that we are moving in the direction of having “safe yield” with real, wet water, not just paper water.