Town Releases Top Water-Users List

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The town of Payson has decided to go public with its top 10 residential and commercial water users in hopes of reducing consumption.

"There is a lot of waste out there," Public Works Director Buzz Walker said.

Topping the list in the residential and commercial categories are a local Realtor and a car wash. The list was generated by the water department's computers and released to the media earlier this week.

Heading the list of residential consumers is Realtor Carolyn Stanley, who used 107,000 gallons in July, 126,900 in June and 82,400 in May. Walker said Stanley, who lives alone, has consistently been the top water user.

"I have a beautiful yard," Stanley said. "I have lawns front and back and flowers, and I really didn't want to see them die. When I first moved to Payson, I was hooked onto my well, and the well went low, low, low, and so then I had to hook onto city water and there I am with city water and greenery and it's a dilemma."

Stanley's July water bill was $547.58, but she says it's worth it.

"What do you do?" she said. "That's $6,000 of property value. I live on three lots and landscaping has a lot of value."

Other water customers on the top 10 list used more than 70,000 gallons in July. By contrast 71 percent of the town's 6,503 customers used less than 10,000 gallons during the same period.

Giant water user

Giant Car Wash led the commercial list, using 1,439,000 gallons of water in July. In June, Giant used 1,186,000 gallons and in May it used 519,000.

By comparison, Super Car Wash used 224,000 gallons in July, 277,000 in June, and 295,000 in May. In contrast, 71 percent of the town's 544 commercial accounts used less than 20,000 gallons in July.

Walker said he suspects Giant has a problem with its water-recycling system.

"They have to have some serious, serious malfunction in their recycling equipment to where it's pumping it back to the sewer instead of pumping it back to the cars or something, because you can't wash enough cars to use that much water," he said. "It's supposed to be 40 gallons for an automatic car wash per car, so you divide it into that and that's like 30,000 car washes. You'd have to be washing 1,000 cars a day."

Roger Burton, director of retail properties and facilities for Giant, said the company is investigating the problem.

"(Buzz and I) met at the site and we are certainly concerned about the usage," Burton said. "We don't want to be wasting water. We want to be good corporate citizens."

Nature of the business

Others on the top 10 commercial list included two hotels, Payson Care Center, Payson Regional Medical Center, Payson Elementary School and Rumsey Park.

Payson Elementary School was the only school on the commercial list. Principal Roy Sandoval said he has been working on the problem for several months.

"We have grass in the front and three acres of grass in the back," Sandoval said.

"Long before this story broke, we have been changing to desert landscaping and low-water use plants for the front.

"On the back, I'm going to cling to the grass. It's a playground and people in the town use it recreationally after school and on the weekends."

Sandoval said he would gladly use waste water if he could.

"The school has wastewater rights, but we don't have a pipeline because it was sent out 260 to Chaparral Pines," he said. "We would love to use wastewater."

Walker noted that Rumsey Park places the town on the commercial list.

"The town is a big user of water and part of what we want to do in that bond election is to get that artificial turf in there and get us off the top 10 list," he said.

Some of the businesses on the list make sense, Walker said.

"Some of them can't avoid the water use because of the nature of the business," he said.

He was not as understanding about those who made the residential list.

"You almost need to have a death penalty rate at some point for residences," Walker said. "You just flat don't need enough water for 15 houses for your one house. You just can't justify it."

Water banks

The water department also is compiling a top 10 consumption list for similar businesses each month.

In July, that list ranked consumption among the town's seven banks.

Bank of America placed first, using 124,000 gallons in July, while SafeQ Federal Credit Union ranked seventh, using just 1,200 gallons.

"It's interesting that (Bank of America) needs 100 times what (SafeQ) does," Walker said. "It's because it's all grass."

Walker said the information that comprises the three lists is public record, and that the town's legal department approved releasing the lists for publication.

"It's going to be a bigger and bigger story because it isn't getting any wetter," Walker said.

Other water developments

  • The town plans to repeat its free low-flow toilet offer beginning Sept. 22. Between 400 and 900 new toilets will be given away by lottery to replace high-flow toilets. Low-volume toilets and waterless urinals will also be provided to qualified nursing homes, schools and town-owned buildings.

Last year, 550 toilets were replaced with Toto top-of-the-line toilets through a similar program.

  • Because of the poor monsoon season, Walker does not anticipate the town returning to Stage 1 water conservation level this winter. In fact, he anticipates having to impose Stage 3 restrictions next spring.

"Now we have to have a real wet winter to make up for no monsoon," Walker said. "It starts petering out the first of September. Our wet month is supposed to be August."

  • It's looking more and more like the Blue Ridge reservoir has the best potential for supplementing Payson's groundwater supply. Salt River Project appears interested in helping Payson acquire water from that source, according to Walker.

"They have asked the secretary of the interior to federalize the Blue Ridge reservoir under the operation of the Bureau of Reclamation for the benefit of SRP, just like all the other dams," Walker said. "Then SRP would manage it for Gila County."

While Blue Ridge wouldn't solve all of Payson's water problems, it would allow the town to grow to a population of 24,000.

  • The request to drill test wells in the Tonto National Forest near Mayfield Canyon is lumbering slowly forward.

"A team put together by the Forest Service including the town and environmental consultants has developed a timeline that could lead to a decision in May," Walker said.

TOP 10 WATER USERS, JULY 2003

(Does not include accounts where one meter serves multiple units.)

Commercial - Amount (gal) - Charge

1. Giant Car Wash - 1,439,000 - $7,806.94

2. Best Western Inn - 788,000 - $4,219.24

3. Payson Care Center - 758,000 - $4,072.33

4. Payson Regional Medical Center - 633,100 - $3,124.58

5. Town of Payson - Rumsey #2 - 349,000 - $1,881.16

6. Payson Elementary School - 329,000 - $1,756.25

7. Town of Payson - Rumsey Park - 326,000 - $1,756.12

8. Majestic Mountain Inn - 253,000 - $1,353.95

9. Gila Redi-Mix - 244,000 - $1,310.33

10. Pickett Enterprises (Ice Plant) - 241,400 - $1,280.01

11. Super Wash Car Wash (compare w/1)* - 224,000 - $1,201.60

391 (71%) of 544 commercial accounts used less than 20,000 gallons

  • For comparison purposes.

Residential - Amount (gal) - Charge

1. Carolyn Stanley - 103,700 - $547.58

2. Larry Dragiewicz - 96,100 - $506.20

3. Ernest Clevenger - 94,000 - $494.85

4. Steve Senovic** - 89,500 - $470.38

5. Flying "G" Ranch - 84,100 - $440.63

6. James & Donna Lochner - 81,100 - $424.72

7. Damian & Kathy Stearns - 79,300 - $414.94

8. Dennis Armstrong - 77,200 - $403.51

9. Nicholas Cardis - 77,000 - $402.43

10. Fred Wagenhals - 71,700 - $373.62

4,662 (71%) of 6,503 residential accounts used less than 10,000 gallons.

  • * Had a water main break.

Source: Payson Water Department

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