Town's Glacial Pace To Develop New Water Supplies Prompted Water Deal

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In the late 90s, the town of Payson commissioned a water study of the area that concluded, in part, that the town's aquifer has a safe-yield water supply of 1,826 acre-feet of water per year. This means that as long as the town's use of its groundwater annually averages 1,826 acre-feet of water or less, natural processes will replenish the underground supply. The town has instituted dramatic water conservation measures to help keep its usage within safe yield, including a prohibition against new lawns and outdoor swimming pools, establishment of water conservation stages and limiting the size of new subdivisions to 20 lots or fewer, unless the subdivider is able to provide new water from outside our current aquifer. All of these efforts have contributed to Payson having an average annual usage of fewer than 90 gallons per person per day and making the town the "poster child" for water conservation throughout the state of Arizona.

In addition to working on the "demand" side, the town has embarked on a number of efforts to make new water supplies available, such as the Diamond Rim exploration effort and the proposed Blue Ridge Reservoir pipeline project. Perhaps growing weary with the glacial pace of the town's efforts (why we have taken so long to develop new supplies outside our area is another story entirely and will be the subject of an additional article), developer Mike Horton took a look at our policy of requiring new water supplies and proceeded to develop such a supply, as have other developers over the past 50 years. Mr. Horton came to the town late last year and was advised of the terms under which the town would accept a new supply from outside its main aquifer. I'm not going to review all the terms again as they have been amply elucidated elsewhere. The agreement the town reached in April with Mr. Horton required him to develop all the necessary facilities from well to pump to pipeline so that the water can be legally and physically put into the town's water system. It also required him to pay the cost of all facilities, although the town has the option of upsizing them at our own cost.

As a result of concerns expressed by neighbors adjacent to his well production sites in the Sky Run area, which was the subject of the April agreement, Mr. Horton sought a different well in a location south of the highway. This well, which was the subject of the agreement the town council approved Aug. 25, can produce at least 530 gallons per minute. Since this is more than the amount of water Mr. Horton needs to develop properties he controls in Payson, town staff recommended that the town pay for this additional capacity. If this project moves forward, the town will apply the same safe-yield rules to the well turned over to us by Mr. Horton as we do currently throughout the town in accordance with our water conservation policy. Also at the Aug. 25 meeting, council directed staff to conduct a safe-yield study for the entire Star Valley area. A specific proposal for this project will appear on the council's Sept. 15 agenda for action.

In the near future, I will follow up with an article reviewing the town's independent efforts to secure new water supplies.

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