Water Users In Pine Now At Stage 4

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Brooke Utilities water customers in Pine, on official conservation levels since May 20, were downgraded from Stage 3 to Stage 4 June 17.

At Stage 4, customers are asked, voluntarily, to reduce water usage by 50-percent and no outside watering except for livestock.

"We analyze the water conditions every morning," Robert Hardcastle, president of Brooke Utilities, said. "The water well production and storage in Pine was sufficient to allow observation of the (Arizona Corporation Commission) Stage 3 water conservation levels."

But Monday morning, Pine storage levels had dropped to 31 percent, an indication of usage exceeding production, a common ailment for Pine in the summer.

"There is no excess water to spare," Hardcastle said. "The water sources and systems are performing very well considering the decrease in water supplies. It's far too late to worry about winter precipitation that didn't materialize. But we can manage water conservation as aggressively as we need to. Our customers have always responded in the past and we anticipate they will respond again with high levels of water conservation."

The rest of the company's systems in Rim country are being asked to conserve minus the formal staging guidelines. Brooke Utilities is the private water company that serves many of the outlying communities in Rim country.

In the weeks before Memorial Day, the corporation commission reissued the order for a water meter moratorium in Pine, limiting new water meter installations to one per month, based on the statewide drought. At that time, Brooke Utilities voluntarily shut down the pipeline, dubbed Project Magnolia, which connects the two water systems of Pine and Strawberry.

May 30, Brooke reported through its e-mail notice to customers that Strawberry's water storage tanks were full.

"Since then, Strawberry's water storage has ranged from full to lesser amounts following weekends.

"Strawberry's production has held up well this year thus far," Hardcastle said.

With well production up, the pipeline will be used to benefit both towns as needed, Hardcastle said.

"Prior to Memorial Day, we discontinued use of the pipeline until we were comfortable with the conservation effect of Stage 4 in Pine, Pine well production, Strawberry well production, and Strawberry water storage. We have used the pipeline only when Pine storage requires supplementing and Strawberry's storage and production are sufficient to allow such an operational condition."

Prior to May 20, Pine residents had gone a year and four months without any restrictions on their water usage, in part because of Project Magnolia.

If the water storage levels in Pine remain this low, it is likely that Pine will see the implementation of Stage 5 where the restrictions are the same as Stage 4 but the requirements become mandatory.

At Stage 5, the corporation commission empowers the water utility to fine water customers or remove their water meters, if the guidelines are not followed.

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