Blue Ridge Water Inches Closer To Your Faucets

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The Payson Town Council is expected to authorize the first services agreement preparatory to bringing water from Blue Ridge Reservoir to the town at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The agreement, with HydroSystems, Inc. (HSI), an Arizona-based company that specializes in water recharge planning, calls for HSI to help the town develop an aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) program.

"The Payson Water Department desires maximum use of at least 3,000 acre-feet of water per year from the reservoir," Public Works Director Buzz Walker wrote in a memo to the council.

"In the early years of receipt by Payson of water from the reservoir, we may not require the entire amount of water to satisfy our daily water demands. In that circumstance, we want to be able to utilize any unneeded Blue Ridge water for local groundwater recharge in select water department well."

Blue Ridge Reservoir, located atop the Mogollon Rim near Clint's Well, was built by Phelps Dodge Mining Company in the late 1950s and early 1960s to replace water taken from the Black River in eastern Arizona for the company's mining operations in Morenci.

Payson will probably receive 3,000 acre-feet of the 3,500 allotted to northern Gila County," according to Town Manager Fred Carpenter.

"To add perspective, our safe yield is 1,825 (acre-feet per year, the point at which the town would be taking more water out of the ground than is replenished) and we're using in the 1,700s right now," Carpenter said. "So it would literally triple available water to Payson."

What to do with Blue Ridge water when it reaches Payson is a complex issue, and that's why the town wants to use the expertise of HSI, Carpenter said.

"For one thing, the Blue Ridge water quality will be different from the water quality we have in our wells and you can have deleterious chemical effects if you don't do some in-depth studies on the differences in the water qualities and what you might have to add to keep those chemical problems down," Carpenter said. "Plus they have to figure out routing, which wells do you want to recharge and when. We have literally dozens of wells, and different ways to pipe stuff, so it's more complicated than you would think."

Under the agreement, the town would pay HSI up to $277,000 to develop a conceptual recharge and well evaluation plan that would identify at least five town wells that could be converted to ASR wells for testing.

HSI would also assist the town in conducting those tests, and would evaluate the effects of mixing treated Blue Ridge surface water with existing groundwater at the selected ASR sites.

"Our intent is to utilize surface water for the demands of our water system customers and discontinue use of our groundwater wells until such time as local groundwater is needed to supplement the surface water supply," Walker wrote in his memo to the council. "While the wells are resting, we plan to introduce excess treated surface water into the wells in an effort to use the local groundwater aquifer as a storage vessel."

Carpenter anticipates council approval.

"We could have put (it on the consent agenda), but some of this stuff the people need to know you're doing," he said.

Other items on the council agenda for Thursday evening include:

  • A resolution authorizing subdivision improvements for Cedar Ridge Phase 2 Subdivision, 14 lots located on the north side of Chennault Parkway north and south of West Gina Circle. (The preliminary plat was approved at the May 27, 2004 council meeting.)

"That's been approved for quite some time, and we're just now getting to the final parts of it," Carpenter said.

  • A council decision request filed by Police Chief Gordon Gartner to authorize purchase of a $65,000 computerized firearms training system.

"Voters approved that exact amount of money as one of the pieces of the package for improvement of public safety on Sept. 9, 2003," Carpenter said. "It's the same bond issue where they approved the police and fire communications equipment; it's part of what the sales tax increase covers."

The town sales tax increased from 2 percent to 2.12 percent on Jan. 1.

  • A request by Carpenter to reschedule the July 15 council meeting to July 7 to accommodate a meeting of the state transportation board in Payson.

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