Water Issues A Hot Topic At Citizens Meeting

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Payson's water guru Buzz Walker hated the idea of running out of water.

The public works director discussed potential solutions to that debacle, and what he has accomplished during his 30-plus year career in hydrology to prevent Payson from going waterless.

Walker and town hydrologist Mike Ploughe were the featured speakers at a Citizens Awareness Committee meeting Monday.

The duo fielded a range of questions from committee members including what the town is working on regarding the potential long-term solution in the Blue Ridge project.

Ploughe focused primarily on current water conditions, while Walker touched on future developments.

Ploughe said water levels have dropped and risen in the last year.

"The water levels have both gone up and down," he said. "On average, I'd say we've gone down a little bit...after this (month's rains) we may be up a little."

Ploughe said the town is within safe-yield estimates.

"We'd still be in safe-yield without the Tower Well," he said.

While the town is not in dire straits regarding its water supply, Walker discussed the continued need for water conservation.

"The big picture is that we're in a drought," he said. "We're not trying to ruin anybody's quality of life and I don't know anybody who's left town yet because of water restrictions. If we were to be so arrogant to deny that our water comes from precipitation that has greatly reduced over the last 11 years, that's not good management of resources. If this lasts another 20 years, people will be thankful that we conserved these years, so that the water supply was stretched."

Payson's use of the often-controversial Tower Well in Star Valley was also discussed.

"In terms of its ability to produce water, it's like the second-largest well. In terms of its actual run time, it's the least of all the wells," Walker said.

Walker said three meetings between the town and the Salt River Project have taken place, thus far. The town needs to work with SRP in order to bring the Blue Ridge pipeline and water supply to fruition.

Walker said the two entities are "just in the talking phases."

Walker was optimistic that the Blue Ridge plan would sustain any amount of feasible growth that Payson could have, possibly ever.

He estimated a $30 million price tag for the completion of the project, which could potentially be covered by water development fees.

"Let growth pay for itself," he said.

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