Payson’S Water Table Rising Despite Lingering Drought

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Payson’s fissured and cracked granite aquifer continues to rebound as crews ready for the delivery of C.C. Cragin water, a recently released water report reveals.

Payson will receive 3,000 acre-feet of water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir in 2014, enough to indefinitely end any fear of water shortages.

Yet, with a shrinking population, Payson’s groundwater supply has already risen. Water levels in the town’s wells have inched upward, said Tanner Henry, Payson’s water division manager.

“The resilience of groundwater levels, in spite of lackluster precipitation in 2012, is indicative of an aquifer in recovery condition,” the town report found. “In other words, water levels are rising or stable because the aquifer is not being pumped more than it is naturally replenished over the long term.”

The town’s “safe yield” from the aquifer without depleting it faster than rainfall and snowfall can recharge it, stands at 2,680 acre-feet a year.

Currently, Payson uses just 61 percent of that safe yield. The average person uses 79 gallons per day, well below the goal of gallons per capita per day (GPCD).

In the Valley, per capita remains much higher, Henry said.

With low demand and a healthy aquifer, the water department decided to keep the conservation level at its lowest level through May 2014, despite below-average annual rainfall. From April 2012-March 2013 Payson got 20.32 inches of rain compared to a long-term average of 22 inches.

Long-term precipitation trends indicate the current drought cycle could bottom out by 2015, about when the town expects to start getting 3,000 acre-feet annually from the C.C. Cragin pipeline.

“Payson continues to move along on the road to achieving a rare condition, water resources sustainability in the desert southwest,” the report concluded.

Last year, the town added three of eight new in-town waterlines to prepare for the Blue Ridge water. The new lines linked East Zurich and Mud Springs Road as well as Airport Road west and West Rumsey Drive through the park.

Mayor Kenny Evans said he recently learned at a western-regional water meeting that the C.C. Cragin Reservoir is the only one in the West that has remained at 100 percent capacity for roughly six weeks.

“C.C. Cragin (Blue Ridge) surface water and related water resources projects have been moving forward with great success,” according to the town report.

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