There's a mother lode of water in Pine and Strawberry, according to a new hydrogeologic study --ore than enough to serve the twin communities well into the future.
Sponsored by the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID), the study details, with a high degree of certainty, where to find more than enough water to meet the summer demand of the two communities, John Breninger said. Breninger is a board member who worked on the study and has seen the final draft. The study is the work of Michael B. Kaczmarek, chief geologist for Morrison Maierle, Inc., a Montana-based firm retained by PSWID to conduct it.
"This is the culmination of the hydrogeologic engineering study that's been going on now since last November," Breninger said. "This guy has done a superb job of putting together all the things that have been said and done in the past, plus new work, and he's now telling us where we can drill for water."
Residents can get detailed information on the study at 1:30 p.m., Saturday when the PSWID convenes in the Kiwanis Building at the Pine Community Center.
Water woes could be over
The bottom line, Breninger claims, is that if Kaczmarek's findings are confirmed, Pine and Strawberry's water woes could be history.
"It explains why water has always been so confounding," he said. "People have come out and they've looked at it and said, ‘Oh, you've got lots of water here,' and of course that sets off through the community like wildfire, ‘Oh we've got lots of water. We don't have to worry. Somebody's cheating; or something else, and it breeds all this hate and discontent."
Through precision GPS mapping, Kaczmarek's study identifies the structure of the regional aquifer that feeds Fossil Springs, which, according to Breninger, "has never stopped producing water at a high rate."
"Now it appears that the water recharge basin is huge," he said. "It doesn't come from our local area totally. It sucks out from under us because we don't hold water in an aquifer in Pine and Strawberry. It's just the reverse; it's called an aquatard, and it just kind of slows it down as it goes through. It's always been known that if you don't get it on the fly (in this area), you don't get it."
Drilling deeper wells
The study also delineates where to drill on private land with the best chance of tapping into the new water.
"What (Kaczmarek has) done is say, ‘All right, where is the place we can find that strata completely immersed in the water?' That's a confined aquifer -- (and) then you can pump with good results."
Wells would have to be drilled to a depth of 1,500 feet, well beyond the depth of current wells in the area.
"Our wells now are 500, 600 feet," Breninger said. "One's 700."
While he believes that the study is 98.9 percent accurate, it is only the first of a six-step plan devised by PSWID to develop and supply supplemental water to the Pine-Strawberry area.
"The next thing is we have to prove that what he says is true by test drilling," Breninger said.
Subsequent steps in the plan include securing customers and funding, drilling and developing production wells, and developing and operating supplemental water delivery points. A timeline calls for desired completion of the six steps by the 2008-09 fiscal year.
The PSWID is different from the four domestic water improvement districts in the Pine-Strawberry area which sell water to individual subdivisions.
"We were formed by a petition of property owners and a resolution of the Gila County Board of Supervisors ... to search for a long-term source of water," PSWID Chairperson Gary Hezel said. "We can be a provider of water to water companies and domestic water improvement districts, but not to the end user."
Total estimated cost of developing the new water is $4.2 million. Breninger thinks that's a bargain.
"We're looking at quantities that can address a forecast that our district has made -- a demand study. We're saying we need an additional 1,200-gallons-a-minute production to be capable of having enough to meet our summer demand."
While the study is good news for residents of Pine and Strawberry, it will have no immediate impact on the water situation in the rest of the Rim country.
"This is a blessing for Pine-Strawberry," Breninger said. "But unless a regional pipeline is built, its use is strictly local."
For all the details
The Saturday afternoon meeting, will feature a slide presentation by Kaczmarek.
Copies of the report, about 85 pages with an additional 15 pages of color fold-out maps and charts, will be available soon on CD-ROM at a nominal cost of $1 to $1.50, Breninger said. Sign-up sheets will be available at the meeting.