Town Debunks Water Myth

Lush greens at Chaparral Pines not abuse of town water

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Psychiatrist Ronald Peterson is not the only Payson resident to pass the lush golf course at Chaparral Pines and wonder, "Where the heck do they get all that water?"

He is one of many townspeople who questions the perpetually emerald greens and shining lakes at the course.

But the grass only grows and the lakes only shine after the water they depend on has been separated from waste.

Most of the water used on the course is effluent, which comes from drains and toilets and is not distributed by the town of Payson.

What many people want to know, however, is if all the water on the course is effluent.

It's not. Some of it comes from wells -- wells owned by Chaparral Pines, said Payson Works Director Buzz Walker.

"They own private property east of Star Valley and they can do whatever they want with that property and the water on it," Walker said.

Peterson has noticed that with recent water restrictions, few people can do whatever they want with water. That's because most don't use effluent sources, which have far fewer limits.

"I'm doing everything I can to follow restrictions," Peterson said. "I water my plants by hand and shut the water off when I brush my teeth. I try not to run my dishwasher or washing machine too often either. So it just really startled me to see all the water being used at Chaparral Pines. I couldn't believe it. There was just water spraying everywhere, on both sides of the road."

The evening is best for watering, said Payson Golf Course owner Harry Parsons.

"You lose a lot less to evaporation that way," he said.

Parsons uses effluent water on his course, but says he probably uses less than Chaparral Pines.

"Theirs might be greener because they probably have a lot more men and equipment than I do," he said. "And they might use a better fertilizer than I do. They have a different species of grass too. No two courses are alike. The conditions at every course are always changing. You just have to go with the flow."

If the flow ended for any reason, Chaparral Pines has enough effluent water to see them through a dry spell. They have 40 million gallons of effluent water stored in their lakes, said Matt Strawser, golf course maintenance director.

Strawser did not comment on how much of the storage water is used or what percentage of the golf course water comes from Chaparral Pines wells. He did say that the amount the course gets from the Northern Gila County Sanitary District is usually enough to keep the course green, however.

"In the winter, we get almost unlimited access," he said. "But during our peak season, we're last priority. The public golf course and the high school all get effluent water before we do. We keep our water stored up in case we don't have enough."

Golf courses can get hot spots that require extra moisture, Parsons said.

"When you get those you have to cool them off with a hose. I don't know if that's legal or not," he said. "I just know it's necessary in the turf industry."

Parsons added that restrictions on effluent water are minimal and haven't caused him any headaches.

Restrictions on town water are much more strict, Walker said.

"If Chaparral Pines or any other course was using water inside town limits, that would be a different thing all together," he added. "As far as us knowing exactly what they do out there every single day, we don't. But to our knowledge, they aren't doing anything illegal."

Walker said people have been speculating about Chaparral Pines' water use since the affluent community's conception a decade ago.

"I don't know if it's class division or people having too much time on their hands," he said. "But as far as we know (Chaparral Pines) is following the rules."

Payson residents call the Northern Gila County Sanitary District office every summer to inquire about the situation, said Joel Goode, Sanitary District general manager.

"I show them the public records and then they're pretty satisfied," he said. "We've had a contract with Chaparral Pines since 1995 and we actually don't give them as much as we promised in our contract. Sometimes we just don't have enough.

From May, 2001 to April 2002, Chaparral Pines bought 149 million gallons of water from the district.

"In the winter, there's more to give and since they have the storage system, we can sell it to them instead of just sending it down the American Gulch," Goode said.

The water starts out at a treatment plant on Doll Baby Ranch Road then gets pumped to Green Valley Park lakes. From there it's sent to Sanitary District customers, including Chaparral Pines.

The district sells it to Chaparral Pines for $1.37 per thousand gallons. For the first two years of the contract, the district had very little water to sell, so Chaparral Pines mostly used ground water, Goode said.

"We have a lot more water for them now in the winter, so it's great that they have a place to store it," he said. "Otherwise, it just gets sent right down the river."

For now, the effluent water system is working as efficiently as possible, said Mike Plough, town of Payson hydrogeologist.

"I think everything is in pretty good working order," he said.

In the future, however, standards might have to rise. Evaporation from storage lakes is one of many potential problems.

"A lot of it will depend on the severity of drought in the coming years," he said.

For now, the effluent water system is up to par, and Chaparral Pines is using it accordingly, he said.

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