Water Department Upgrade Will Inform Future Decisions

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A proposed $43,000 upgrade to the town water department's data collection system will serve as the keystone of future growth and water management policies.

On Tuesday, during a work study session, hydrology consultants presented the Payson Town Council, staff and the public with an outlay of the system upgrades.

The council and water department staff said improvements to the current Water Information Management System (WIMS) will help the town and the mayor's water task force better estimate the water supply underneath the town and adjacent communities.

Chris Garrett, the consulting hydrologist who designed WIMS, which went online in 2000, said the focus of the system's redesign is integration.

Layers of data, including stacks of paperwork, have created inefficiency among the water department's computer systems. WIMS' most significant weakness lies in the program's inability to synthesize data.

"As water resources get tighter and your demands are going up, we need to keep closer track on what water levels are doing, what production is with different wells and where it stands," Garrett said. "A lot of that is beyond the capability of the system as it stands."

For instance, the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system (SCADA) records an inordinate amount of information, some of it dating back to 1995, from the more than 40 wells around town. SCADA does this through a web of monitors in the wells, storage tanks and pump stations that communicate via radio signals with the town. WIMS stores the information, but SCADA and WIMS don't integrate well.

The new program solves this problem.

Through customized graphs, reports, data tables, 3D models, and the tracking of historical and precipitation trends, town staff and the water task force are better equipped to track Payson's increased reliance on its groundwater supply.

Until that information is compiled, the council, over the next few months, will implement policies to curb water use and residential growth. It's called the 17-point plan, adopted in early August, and is designed to create a compromise among the town's businesses, residents and special interest groups.

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