Water Predominant Issue At June 24 Council Meeting

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With the Rim country in the ninth year of a prolonged drought, water issues dominated the Payson Town Council's regular meeting on June 24.

Besides a protracted discussion over whether the town has an adequate water supply for new subdivisions, a debate that will be continued at the July 8 meeting of the council, several proposed revisions to the town's water conservation ordinance received a first reading.

They include:

  • Eliminating the Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) designation for hotel rooms with spas, essentially banning them.

"Somebody coming up from the Valley puts 200 gallons of water in a spa, stays in there for 15 minutes, and then, due to health laws, has to dump that down the sewer," Walker said. "It just sends a horrible message."

  • Defining water waste as any non-beneficial use of water as determined by the public works director.

This, according to Payson Public Works Director Buzz Walker, is another case of people trying to bend the intent of the ordinance. "Somebody has water running down the gutter and they say, well that's not a water waste, and I say it is -- there's no beneficial use. Then they say it's cleaning out the gutter.

"If we can show them in black and white, they have a better chance of understanding why it applies to them."

  • Prohibiting the construction of new outdoor swimming pools and spas adjacent to motel/hotel rooms, as well as the use of evaporative coolers in buildings larger than 3,000 square feet.

A 100,000 square-foot building uses 200,000 gallons of water a month when it is evaporative cooled. While the ban will only apply to buildings over 3,000 square feet, evaporative cooling is a water waster in any size building, according to Walker.

Although he will make an exception to the evaporative cooling regulation for The Door Stop because air conditioning damages the wood the company uses to manufacture cabinet doors, Walker noted that The Home Depot has voluntarily abandoned plans to use evaporative cooling in its new Payson store.

"The Home Depot was going to be cooled by evaporative cooling at the rate of 177,000 gallons a month," Walker said. "That is a big use of water when there is a suitable alternative available that they use throughout the United States in their stores."

By comparison, The Door Stop only uses 6,000 gallons a month for evaporative cooling during the summer.

A recommendation by Walker to require owners of private wells within the town limits to abide by the same conservation rules as town water customers was not addressed pending a legal ruling by town attorney Sam Streichman.

Blue Ridge water

The council also voted unanimously to begin the process of acquiring five acres of land near the intersection of North Beeline Highway and West Houston Mesa Road for a town water treatment plant. Walker explained the rationale.

"This is preparing for the eventuality that we will some day receive and utilize an allocation of water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir," he said. "That is surface water, and once we get it into town it will have to be treated through a water treatment plant -- a mandatory requirement by federal law. I'm just afraid if we wait until later we'll be trying to shoehorn this in between The Home Depot and a residential neighborhood and something else."

Two readings

Another agenda item that attracted considerable interest was the first reading of an ordinance that eliminates the requirement that new ordinances receive two separate readings. Several members of the audience objected on the grounds that such an ordinance would limit the public's opportunity to comment on items before the council.

"I know you seven don't, but the citizens feel threatened by it," resident Pat Randall told the council.

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