The Payson Town Council last week approved a $31,000 engineering contract with Tetra Tech to complete the design of a water line that will allow the town to sell water from the Blue Ridge pipeline to golf courses and other customers.
The water line will take water from the Blue Ridge pipeline near the proposed $7 million water treatment plan next door to Mesa del Caballo and run it down Houston Mesa Road to a spot about 1,000 feet east of Highway 87 and then south to Tyler Parkway.
Tetra Tech will finalize the engineering design of this pipeline, so the town can seek construction bids based on that design.
The extra pipeline will allow the town to divert water from the pipeline before it goes through the water treatment plant. The town can then sell the untreated water for irrigation, which will improve the bottom line for the $34 million Blue Ridge pipeline.
The extra pipeline has its ironic undertones, since it will help solve an unexpected problem: Too much water.
Payson about six years ago imposed the state’s most stringent water conservation rules, which along with the economic collapse helped stop an alarming drop in the town’s water table. The town’s water use has stabilized in the past several years at close to the average, groundwater recharge rate — about 1,800 acre-feet annually.
However, the town has now obtained rights to the Blue Ridge water, which in 2014 or 2015 will deliver 3,000 acre-feet annually. That will provide enough water for the town’s build-out population of some 40,000 — but the town won’t actually need all that water for years.
However, the terms of the town’s federally-sanctioned agreement with the Salt River Project requires the town to put its 3,000 acre-feet to “beneficial use” immediately.
So the town is re-plumbing its water system, which now relies on isolated networks of wells. The changes will connect the various well fields, so that during the nine months water flows in the Blue Ridge pipeline, the town can get all its water from that source. During the winter months when snows on the Rim shut down the Blue Ridge pipeline, the town will again draw on its wells.
Even so, the pipeline will provide more water than the town can use — so Payson plans to put much of the water back down into the water table.
However, the town also hopes to sell water for irrigation to clients like The Rim Club and the Chaparral Pines golf courses. That will help offset the cost of the pipeline, since the once-hoped-for impact fees all but vanished during the downturn. Those golf courses have been relying mostly on reclaimed water bought from the Northern Gila County Sanitary District. However, due to the building slump and Payson’s water conservation efforts, the golf courses sometimes have barely enough reclaimed water to keep the grass green.
If the Rim Country Educational Alliance does eventually build a university at Highway 260 and Tyler Parkway, it could also rely on Blue Ridge water to irrigate athletic fields and landscaping.