When plans for development of the exclusive Chaparral Pines and Rim Golf Club subdivisions were being hammered out in the early 1990s, there was no small amount of heated opposition.
With more than 1,000 home sites spread out over 1,200 lushly landscaped acres, and two golf courses at its center, the primary topic of debate among Payson residents was, "Where on earth are they going to get the water for 1) all those area newcomers and 2) all that greenery?"
The solution devised by the developers was to use waste-water effluent purchased from the Northern Gila County Sanitary District and stored over the winter and, when supplementary water was needed, they would turn to Calhoun Ranch, a well field just northeast of Star Valley which is not part of the Payson water supply.
Craig Swartwood, former Payson mayor and current director of sales for the properties, believes the system is working fine and with constant refinements, it's getting better each year.
"We probably use 100-percent effluent water nine months out of the year," Swartwood said. "In June, July and August, not so." During those peak summer months, water is pumped from effluent reserves at the Chaparral Pines property known as Mayfield Canyon, and supplemented when necessary by Calhoun Ranch.
"We've always had a water conservation policy, but this year we instituted it a little bit lower and cut our water use on the golf course by 25 percent so we're now using less water than in years past," he said. "We don't water the roughs like we did, and there's brown spots on the golf course waiting for rain."
Chaparral Pines has a complex weather-monitoring system that not only keeps track of rainfall on the grounds, but also the level of evaporation due to heat and lack of clouds.
"When we have cloud cover, our system automatically backs off, because there's not so much transfer of evaporation," Swartwood said. "Using this system, I can show you a year's worth of weather, every day, from the temperature to the wind speed to the solar radiation that's hitting the ground, the humidity. That's how we decide how much water to put on the golf course.
"Last July, in one day, we had seven inches of rain. That went into our calculations as to how much, and when, we put water on the golf course. It's much more sophisticated than, 'Gee, it's pretty hot out, let's water.'"
In the dead of summer right now, for example "It's a rare day that we'll get any effluent water, because it's going to Green Valley Park and the schools and everywhere else, and there's just not enough left for us to get any," Swartwood said. "But we always have a request in. And we built those big lakes west of Chaparral Pines to store effluent all winter long.
"From the time we have access to the time (the Sanitation District) can't give us any more (effluent), we're storing 35 million gallons of water on the property. We fill that up, and then draw it down during the hot months until it rains, which is when we get into the Mayfield Canyon water."
If it started to rain next week, Swartwood said, the allocation Chaparral Pines gets from the Sanitary District would become "a double bonus for us, because not only do we get rain on the golf course and landscape, but we don't have to pump anything out of Mayfield."
The supplemental water from Calhoun Ranch is only pumped in times of stress, said Tim Lewis, Chaparral Pines' newly installed director of club operations or, as he explains, "the head maintenance guy."
"We pump them 12 or 14 hours a day, but we never pump them more than they rejuvenate themselves. At the end of every single day, we make sure the aquifers are no lower than when we started," he said. "A lot of times, that also dictates how much water we can put on the golf course."
As for areas outside of the golf courses, "We've basically stopped irrigating any of our landscaped areas, the entry ways ... we've really cut back substantially. If we have to continue with this type of reduction throughout the entire summer, we figured out that we'll end up spending $50,000 to $60,000 just to reseed and resod grass that's died."