My, my. How times change.
Payson pocketed a quick $118,000 for selling the Chaparral Pines and Rim Club golf courses 15 million gallons of water to keep the grass alive during the bone-dry spring.
Water Superintendent Buzz Walker reported the sale to the town council, which had earlier approved the proposed sale.
Some six years ago, Payson adopted the toughest water conservation rules in the state, in the face of a construction industry that was adding about 300 homes annually and a plunging water table.
At that time, the golf courses subsisted on recycled wastewater and the town council feared Payson wouldn’t have enough fresh water to continue its growth.
But then the recession shut down the housing market.
And Payson clinched a deal to build the Blue Ridge pipeline, which would effectively double the town’s water supply, starting in 2014.
The combination of water conservation and a debilitating business slowdown sharply decreased the amount of water running into the Northern Gila County Sanitary District treatment plant, which meant the golf courses barely had enough reclaimed water to keep the grass alive.
The problem for the golf courses became acute this spring, when the region saw several months with barely a trace of rain.
Meanwhile, the building slump dried up the flow of $7,500-per-house impact fees, which Payson had planned to use to finance the $34 million Blue Ridge pipeline.
The need to qualify for low-cost federal loans to build the system prompted the town to look for ways to boost revenue to the water department so it could guarantee the federal loans — which led to the proposal to sell water to the golf courses.
The town and the golf courses struck the deal to deliver 500,000 gallons a day to one of the golf course lakes through a fire hydrant and a 4-inch water meter.
Walker’s report to the council noted that despite the sale of the 46 acre-feet of well water to the golf courses, the water levels in the nearby wells didn’t register any unusual fluctuations.
The town currently uses about 1,800 acre-feet annually. One acre-foot amounts to 325,000 gallons of water.
Rainfall, snowmelt and runoff normally deliver about 2,400 acre-feet annually to the underground water table in town, which includes the recharge to the area around the Tower Well in Star Valley. If you exclude the Tower Well, then the natural recharge to the town’s water table just about matches the average annual use. However, the town has suffered from a drought off and on for nearly a decade, with the occasional normal year. This year so far, Payson has received about half of the normal rainfall for the year.
However, the Blue Ridge pipeline will deliver about 3,000 acre-feet annually, more than doubling the town’s long-term water supply. Payson plans to use the extra water initially to recharge the water table.