Task Force To Provide Estimate Of Water Supply

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Lynn Godfrey, chairman of the Mayor's Water Task Force, presented the focus and scope of the group's findings Monday at a special Citizens Awareness Committee meeting.

The data Godfrey and his group compile will provide the town with an estimate of the water underneath Payson and the amount of water the town will need to sustain its current population and support future growth.

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Lynn Godfrey

"The bad news is if we do one thing, Payson is in deep weeds waterwise," he said. "The good news is, there are ways out."

The task force will present its findings at the Dec. 7 council meeting. That information, combined with figures derived from other sources, such as town, consultant and regional studies, could provide a framework for safe yield and water management policies.

Godfrey prefaced his presentation with a disclaimer that the water task force report won't be a matter of absolutes.

"There will never come a time when you know all the answers," he said.

The breadth of information will attempt to identify a way to avoid regional water depletion while keeping costs down.

To accomplish this task, Godfrey and his committee have set about defining variables and identifying worst- and best-case scenarios -- and then determining answers that fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

Those variables include reservoir size, population and precipitation. Godfrey said, he's basing his safe-yield number --when input equals output -- on the amount of rain and snow that's absorbed into the ground. Trying to factor in surface water poses challenges because it's owned by the Salt River Project.

Part of that analysis includes weighing the cost-benefit options of four supplementary water sources identified by the task force: The Tower Well in Star Valley, effluent, national forest drilling and the Blue Ridge Reservoir.

Through this process, Godfrey said the task force has come up with preliminary estimates -- each with many advantages and significant disadvantages. Payson's current delivery capacity is approximately 1,800 acre-feet a year. Godfrey said, at this rate, the system is maxed out and will require more infrastructure.

Past cost estimates for the delivery of Blue Ridge water have been "comparing apples to oranges," Godfrey said.

The price tag, including interest, labor and materials could cost as much as $130 million, but that's a worst-case scenario.

"This is the highest number (we) have seen from playing with all the variables," he said.

Godfrey and his team will continue crunching the numbers.

"This is a huge mass of data," he said. The challenge is taking those outcomes and turning them into conclusions the layperson can understand.

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