One of the Town of Payson's most significant challenges is supplying enough quality water to the community.
All of our groundwater is pumped from fractures, joints, weathered zones and spaces between rock grains in the granite aquifer beneath the town. As water is removed from the aquifer to supply drinking water to town residents, the level of the groundwater stored underground declines, unless it is replaced by rainfall, snowmelt or artificial recharge.
The Payson aquifers are affected by droughts and are very sensitive to precipitation. In general, a minimum of eight to 11 inches of precipitation is needed during the winter months to recharge the aquifer effectively from pumping.
Assuming that an average of 9.5 inches of winter precipitation is required for the groundwater to recover, aquifer recharge has occurred in 14 of the past 23 years. About one out of every three years, there is insufficient winter precipitation to satisfactorily recharge the aquifers.
Aquifers within the town's boundaries can provide enough water during years of average rainfall to safely supply a population of about 18,300 people.
The amount of groundwater available for use may be increased by artificially recharging the aquifers with treated effluent or by developing new sources of water outside of the town's boundaries.
With this knowledge, the Payson Water Department is actively implementing the objectives outlined in the town's 1999 Corporate Strategic Plan for Water Resource Management.
One critical aspect of the management program is using a "safe yield" concept for monitoring and maintaining an adequate volume of available water in the town's aquifers. In addition to rotating the use of groundwater wells to avoid over-pumping any one area, 20 percent of the town's well-pumping capacity will be held in reserve to offset any mechanical failures.
Town staff has been developing an annual water production assessment that will indicate whether the town is within "safe yield" parameters.
Currently, two of the most promising prospects for securing new water sources are artificial recharge of treated effluent in Rumsey Park, and development of new groundwater wells on U.S. Forest Service lands outside the town limits. These projects will be expensive from $5 to $13 million and may require more than three years to implement because of permitting requirements and environmental regulations.
In addition to managing the water supply, the Town of Payson also is implementing methods for reducing water demands.
The Payson Water Department offers year-round education programs and audits for large water-use customers to prevent water waste and promote conservation.
The department distributes low-flow shower heads, sink aerators, toilet tank flapper valves, and a wide variety of educational materials.
Reducing outdoor water demand is critical, especially during the months between May and September, when water usage may quadruple.
Current water customers are encouraged to use native and low-water-use plants for landscaping and new developments are required to do so.
A complimentary copy of the Payson Native and Low-Water Use Plant List and "The Complete How-To Guide to Xeriscaping" is available at the Payson Water Department at 303 A North Beeline Highway next to Town Hall.
Because the town's water resources are limited, maintaining high quality water also continues to be an important issue.
The Payson Water Department also will develop a wellhead protection program to prevent contaminants from reaching the water stored in the ground that we use as our drinking water supply.
Many communities and citizens have learned the hard way that it is far easier and less expensive to prevent a water pollution problem than it is to clean it up. Each year, millions of dollars are spent to treat contaminated water or replace unusable supplies. Losses to affected communities may be great in terms of decreased property values, business revenues, and consumer confidence in water quality.
Town of Payson staff have been working diligently to ensure a safe and sufficient supply of water for everyone in our community.
By planning and working together, we can continue to make the right decisions for our community as we plan for the future.