Pine-Strawberry has had some discussions about occasional turbidity in their water. Water turbidity is caused by particulates in the water which may cause cloudiness. The question is; Is water turbidity a good or bad thing? And the answer is ... It can be both.
The Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) will begin testing a filtration system to remove the most extreme particulates. Our region depends on well water and almost all well water has some level of turbidity. Look in your toilet tank and most likely, you will see some sand. Some turbidity you may see and some you may not. So to answer the above question, if you can see turbidity it is bad because it causes aesthetic concerns, however, generally there is no health danger in the water. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will not allow unhealthy water into a water system and public water is continuously tested. So if turbidity is bad, how can it be good?
Pine-Strawberry lies above a deep aquifer whose existence was suspected of being there but never investigated until the first test bore hole was drilled almost a decade ago. Subsequently, two deep production wells were drilled that established with certainty that a substantial supply of water existed below the communities. In sworn testimony, a geologist stated that there were approximately 45 billion gallons of water in reserve in this aquifer.
With these deep aquifer wells there are some challenges. At times, the new wells have experienced levels of turbidity. These are extremely fine grains of sand that occasionally appear in the water. As stated above, the PSWID will begin testing a filter to alleviate the sand when these events occur. But, the sand appearing is not necessarily a bad thing. When sand appears, that means the well is developing and may actually be creating the ability to obtain more water from the well. Imagine as water flows 800 feet below the earth’s surface with dams of sand between the undisturbed rock sub-structure. As these chunks of sand break off, they allow a greater amount of water to flow between the cracks and crevices which further “develops” the well. Well development is like raising a child to maturity. Some wells may mature (develop) quickly and some may take a period of years. Some may never grow up. In the mean time, the occasional turbidity events have to be mitigated.
Just as new wells have challenges to mitigate, so does an infant water district.
One of the challenges for example is getting accurate information to the public. Pine-Strawberry received bad press for many years in the Valley news media. It created a water stigma for the communities. Unfortunately, the Valley news media will not report the progress that has been made in going from summer water hauling to having a substantial supply of water.
Another example is a recent comment in an article that said: “Water for Pine Strawberry spokesperson Pam Mason said board members should have heeded Tetra Tech’s original advice”; “Had cooler heads prevailed, we might not have had to pay for numerous pumps, motors burning out and an additional $174,000 for the water outage in June of last year.” To put a filter on the Milk Ranch Well in 2010 would have been premature because the well was in the testing and development stage. Furthermore, the price range presented at that time for filtration by the engineering firms was between $120,000 and $565,000. However, the most obvious reason is because the district did not own the well until late March 2011. By not rushing and doing due diligence, the cost to filter the water will be $32,000 which is a far cry from the previous guesstimates. Furthermore, a pump 700-800 feet below the surface and filters sitting above ground cannot prevent well pumps from failing during the well development period. As explained at PSWID board meetings, the unfortunate water outage last summer was caused by numerous factors that contributed to a “perfect storm” occurrence and measures have been put in place so this cannot reoccur.
Please come to our town hall meeting which county Supervisor Tommie Martin will be hosting and facilitating. It is scheduled for Saturday, March 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for residents of Pine-Strawberry. The public is invited to give their thoughts and feedback to the PSWID on the future direction for their water district. The meeting will be held in the Pine cultural hall and lunch will be served.