The United States Bureau of Reclamation completed a 161-page study in April 2008 called the Mogollon Rim Water Resources — the acronym for the study was MRWRMS (pronounced Mr. Worms).
It evaluated the present and future water needs of communities in Gila County near the Mogollon Rim and the options to fulfill those needs through the year 2040.
In 2002, the population in Pine and Strawberry was 2,891. The study projected a build-out population of 13,395 by the year 2040, which now seems somewhat likely in the event Payson becomes a college town.
To solve the challenges facing the communities of Pine-Strawberry, opportunities were identified to meet a sustainable water supply in the coming years. The water supply options included: C.C. Cragin Dam, Fossil Creek, contracting and trading CAP water rights, slant drilling in the Rim, and deep wells in the communities.
Examining these options for the most viable source, the first four options were eliminated. The cost to bring C.C. Cragin water to Pine-Strawberry or trading for CAP water proved to be cost prohibitive. Fossil Creek water would have met strong legal opposition from environmental organizations. Slant drilling in the Rim would require U.S. government approval, which can be arduous and possibly cost prohibitive due to the cost of bringing three-phase electrical power to the site. That left deep wells.
The initial bore hole test in Strawberry gave hope to a sustainable water supply. Subsequently, two deep production wells were drilled in Pine that confirmed the existence of a deep water aquifer beneath the communities. At that time, Brooke Utilities proposed drilling a production well in Strawberry at a cost of $1,300,000, which was seemingly exorbitant as the MRWRMS study identified much lower costs to put a production well on line.
At the time of the study, it was estimated that a deep water well would cost $350,000 to drill. That figure did not include transmission and distribution, energy and power sources, water treatment, land, and other non-contract costs. In addition, the study recommended drilling the deep wells in Pine because the cost of drilling would be less, the risk of drilling would be less, and the operating costs would be less.
Where are we today? At a cost of approximately $1,300,000 we anticipate the on line completion of four deep aquifer production wells serving Pine-Strawberry.
Our communities, in a few short years have advanced from water hauling in the summer to the enviable position of having a sustainable, drought-resistant supply of water to meet current and future needs.
While this is good news, we still face challenges. We are confident, however, that solutions to these challenges will be met by the expertise and resources of our partner in operations, CH2MHill Company.
If you would like to review the study, it can be found at: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/phoenix/ reports/mogollonrim/mrwrfr.pdf