Water Trucks Keep Taps Flowing In Pine

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Brooke Utilities, which placed its Pine water customers on Stage 5 water conservation restrictions three weeks ago, is hauling water from Strawberry, 6,500 gallons at a time, to keep water flowing to Pine taps.

"Present well production is not much greater than 210,000 gallons per day," Brooke Utilities President Bob Hardcastle said in late May. Hardcastle declined this week to comment on well production in Pine and Strawberry, the amount of water that's been hauled from Strawberry to Pine and when Pine residents might get relief from the water restrictions.

With water supplements from Strawberry, Pine's water stores have remained at about 350,000 gallons, according to the water status reports issued daily by Hardcastle.

Brooke's water storage tanks can hold as much as 850,000 gallons of water and have dropped to as low as 120,000 gallons this summer.

Nevertheless, Pine customers haven't reported any water outages this summer, according to the company's daily reports, and Strawberry customers have only reported a minor outage, which was caused by an equipment failure.

Brooke's tanks in Strawberry have remained nearly full, according to the company's reports.

Stage 5 requires Brooke's 1,600 water customers to reduce their indoor water use by at least 50 percent. No outside watering is permitted, except for permitted livestock. And restaurant patrons are served water only upon request. Water customers who do not observe the mandatory conservation guidelines can be subject to fines and immediate removal from the water system.

Pine residents who are not Brooke customers are not subject to the mandatory conservation requirements.

In addition, Brooke's conservation rules do not affect the issuance of building permits in the Pine area. Building permits are still being issued in Pine, Gila County Planning and Zoning officials in Payson said, but there's a catch.

"Gila County requires proof of a potable water supply to residences," Joe Mendoza, Gila County building official and director of community development, said Wednesday.

Mendoza said that if a land owner wants to build, he or she must have one of three things: a letter from the local water provider stating that it will connect and supply them with water; proof of a working well and ownership of the well; or the ability to haul water and the equipment needed on site to use hauled water.

Mendoza said he doesn't want to prevent residents from using their land, but he wants to make sure they're fully aware of the water situation in Pine.

"If (Brooke Utilities) would not provide water, I would not issue a permit," he said. In that case, land owners would have to find alternate sources of water before building.

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