City council approves agreements to store an excess of water supply

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Three agreements were approved by City Council on May 19 that will provide more storage for Scottsdale’s surplus water as city officials seek added infrastructure.

While sharing some differences, all three of the approvals would provide new water storage spaces for future potential usage.

Two of the agreements, in particular, are involved with the Central Arizona Project, a 336-mile long aqueduct that provides water resources to central and southern Arizona from the Colorado River. The specific projects involved are part of the Recharge Program which acts as a sort of “savings account” for cities and their water supply.

In total the council approved on consent:

  • A water storage agreement with Central Arizona Water Conversation District at the Hieroglyphic Mountains Recharge Project;
  • A water storage agreement with Central Arizona Water Conservation District at the Agua Fria Recharge Project; and
  • A construction manager at risk contract in the amount of $324,908 with MGC Contractors for pre-construction phase services for the water resources Aquifer Storage and Recovery Wells Project.

Scottsdale seeks to drill and equip four new Aquifer Storage and Recovery Wells near the Loop 101 freeway and Hayden Road. The new wells would both recharge existing aquifers with water received from the city’s potable water distribution system and recover water for treatment within existing facilities, a city staff report stated.

Cities throughout the state pay for a certain amount of water from CAP and are then given a certain amount of water accordingly, DeEtte Person, a CAP representative, explained. It is then up to whichever city to then allocate that water to all their different sectors including infrastructure and public use.

“They would be recharging water that they weren’t, you know, putting into direct use for their customers,” Ms. Person said. “They’d be recharging that water to save for the future.”

In Scottsdale’s case, they have a surplus of CAP water that they purchase from the project annually. In the city council report, it was stated that the city does not have the appropriate amount of infrastructure to support the amount of water that they do have.

“This year it’s a wonderful wet year but it also means that storage, those storage facilities are all, for the most part full,” Gretchen Baumgardner said. “So, we always look for a suite of options to store water.”

Ms. Baumgardner is the water policy manager at Scottsdale Water. According to her, the recently approved projects will serve as the secondary options for if or when the primary facilities fill up.

The city has been graced with a particularly wet year in terms of water supply but they already had a very robust water supply from previous years. With growing populations as well as dry conditions, Scottsdale has still been able to build a large water supply portfolio.

“We’re always looking out into the future to make sure, not only are we covered, but we’re covered in times of drought and shortage, and then it’s always a contingency,” Ms. Baumgardner explained.

Even if water supplies were to become tight throughout the state, the city would not feel those effects for a long time. Ms. Person explained that in times where water is scarce, industries like agriculture would be impacted first.

“The allocation to cities doesn’t really get affected until much further down the line and at this point it looks like we’ve planned well and cities shouldn’t be running into any shortages,” Ms. Person said.

For Scottsdale, there is really no fear at this point in time of running out of water especially since they are currently looking to store some of their supply.

However, even with their robust supply of water, it is still a limited resource in a sense.

Scottsdale has accomplished great strides in the last 20 years making sustainable water choices despite the bustling tourist seasons and boundless golf courses. 100% of the city’s water that goes down the drain is recycled and used again in some form according to Nicole Sherbert, public information officer for Scottsdale Water.

Ms. Sherbert explained that if there is no water supply, it would be impossible to continue living in the desert for future generations.

“We can’t do that if we’re not proactive now,” she said. “So it’s really about making proactive steps today, to ensure the water sustainability for the future and that’s what these investments are.”

With rising climate change issues looming over the world, sustainability has become a priority issue for states like Arizona that have these kinds of threats to essential resources.

“We are constantly trying to encourage conservation and so that we don’t ever have to take drastic steps, we want to do things like [these water projects] now so that we have that water for the future,” Ms. Sherbert said.

The importance of water sustainability is not limited just to Scottsdale. Organizations throughout the state are looking for and working on solutions to help ease some of these pressing problems.

The Arizona Sustainability Alliance is a project-based organization that works on six different topic areas all dealing with sustainability, including water resources management throughout the state. In Phoenix, for example, they are running water audits to help curb overconsumption of water resources and educate residents.

“Our mission is to create and support cutting edge project-based sustainability work,” said Aubrey Coffey-Urban, programs director for AZSA.

Outside of water resources related project, they organize volunteer efforts as well as other programs dealing with things such as invasive species and urban forestry.

“We want to implement those things that we see [and] we want to take all of these ideas that are out there and start using them and see how they work in real life for us in our communities,” Ms. Coffey-Urban said.

Editor’s note: Ms. Yu is a student-journalist at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism serving in a paid internship role at Independent Newsmedia.

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