A jump in water use prompted Brooke Utilities this week to impose water restrictions on Pine and on several communities along the East Verde River.
Mesa del Caballo went to stage three restrictions, after having already run so short of water earlier this year that Brooke had to haul water in from outside the community, which sits just off Houston Mesa Road.
Stage three restrictions impose a fine for anyone who waters landscaping, fills pools or fountains, waters down construction sites or engages in any other water-intensive activity.
Meanwhile, Pine and the East Verde Estates both went to stage two conservation levels this week, which asks people to voluntarily stop watering outdoor plants.
“It’s basically a supply and demand situation. When what we’re pulling out of the ground is less than the customers are using and we can’t recover overnight, that dictates when we hit different stages,” said Myndi Brogdon, spokeswoman for the private utility that owns a host of Rim Country water companies.
Brogdon said she believes Mesa del has more full-time residents this year, perhaps because of family members using the second-home properties of their parents.
“We had a good winter (in terms of rainfall), but every year we see a little more population and a little more demand. To some degree, I think it’s the economy: Mom and Dad have a weekend home and the kid has lost a job or lost a home and ‘hey, here’s a place we’re not using, why don’t you go hang out there until you get back on your feet,’” said Brogdon.
The company has already resorted to water hauling at Mesa del, when use drained the storage tanks and the wells couldn’t pump fast enough to replenish it.
At Mesa del and other small communities, Brooke doesn’t charge customers extra when it has to haul water.
The company can only charge water users in Pine extra hauling charges, under regulations established by the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Pine just this week went into voluntary water restrictions, but Brogdon said she can’t predict whether the company will have to haul water there in the course of the summer. Pine residents see a three- or four-fold increase in their water bills when the water company starts hauling water.
“In the summertime, we’re never surprised when we get to water hauling in Pine and Strawberry, but we’re ecstatic when we don’t,” said Brogdon.
“We’ve got a Fourth of July weekend coming up and we’ll see a lot of population — so use will spike. But there are too many variables to predict” whether use will overwhelm supply in Pine, she said.
She said the company is hoping for the early onset of monsoons, since rain dampens residents’ tendency to water plants in the yard, which sharply reduces water demand.
“It rained a little yesterday, so we’re watching the weather.
She said residents in the chronically water-short communities use about 75 gallons per day per person, which is even lower than the water use rates in Payson and less than half the average use in Phoenix.
Brogdon said the relatively high flows in the East Verde due to releases from the Blue Ridge pipeline in Washington Park could help keep well levels higher than usual for communities like East Verde and Beaver Valley.