Planning for future water use in Sun Cities

RCSCW, ADWR discuss need for preservation

Posted 1/30/20

As the Northwest Valley, along with the rest of Arizona, continues to feel the effects of an ongoing drought, state and area leaders are recognizing the need to make plans for the future.

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Planning for future water use in Sun Cities

RCSCW, ADWR discuss need for preservation

The sun rises over Riverview Golf Course, 16401 N. Del Webb Blvd., as golfers are just beginning to appear. Recreation Centers of Sun City officials replaced irrigation systems on courses that have been renovated and will continue with turf reduction plans to address water conservation.
The sun rises over Riverview Golf Course, 16401 N. Del Webb Blvd., as golfers are just beginning to appear. Recreation Centers of Sun City officials replaced irrigation systems on courses that have been renovated and will continue with turf reduction plans to address water conservation.
Posted

As the Northwest Valley, along with the rest of Arizona, continues to feel the effects of an ongoing drought, state and area leaders are recognizing the need to make plans for the future.

While they will look toward a future state water management plan, Recreation Centers of Sun City officials continue on a plan agreed upon several years ago with Arizona Department of Water Resources. When Viewpoint Lake developed leaks, ADWR officials laid down specific water use reduction requirements. These included upgrading irrigation systems on the rec centers’ eight golf courses.

“This required work has been completed,” Joelyn Higgins, RCSC communications and marketing coordinator, stated in an email.

RCSC officials also included turf reduction when the Lakes, 10433 W. Talisman Road, and Willow, 10600 N. Boswell Blvd., courses were renovated.

“Plans have been completed for additional turf reduction; however, it is not currently planned financially,” Ms. Higgins stated.

Looking back to the year 1970, there were 1.8 million people in Maricopa County and in the year 2000 that number jumped to 5 million. In 2050, it is projected the population will surge to 16 million. With those numbers, Recreation Centers of Sun City West General Manager Bill Schwind said important questions arise having to do with water.

“Specifically golf course irrigation is what we are talking about today and how the ground water supply is going to effect us and the seven courses we manage,” he said during a Jan. 17 mid-year report public meeting. “We are part of a golf course mecca and they are here to stay, so it is our plan to take care of your infrastructure and investments and let you know you are in a good place.”

Sun City West is allocated 4,000 acre feet of water per acre to keep the golf courses green and playable, according to Natalie Mast, Arizona Department of Water Resources program manager for management plans. She was on hand at the Jan. 17 meeting to help educate the community on the water issue.

RCSC has combined water rights for its properties, according to Ms. Higgins.

Beyond golf courses, RCSC officials encourage water conservation to its members, including a monthly article in its SunViews publication, according to Ms. Higgins. RCSC officials are also addressing conservation in its facilities.

“Low-flow faucets, etc. are being installed as fixtures are being replaced, irrigation is routinely monitored and adjusted as necessary,” Ms. Higgins stated.

ADWR has responsibility for a broad range of different types of water across the state with the goal of controlling ground water depletion across Arizona to ensure long-term viability.

Five active management areas exist in the state with Sun City West and Sun City existing in the Phoenix AMA. The guiding principal in the development of the plan is to reduce withdrawal of ground water to move closer to safe-yield.

“These plans contain mandatory conservation programs for the largest water users in each AMA, with one being turf golf course,” Ms. Mast said. “The programs contain regulation requirements, conservation targets, as well as compliance and flexibility provisions.”

The allotment-based program sets a cap on total use and the individual can choose how they use the facility to stay in that limit. A fifth management plan is now in the works with the ADWR, according to Ms. Mast.

A public hearing for the Phoenix AMA Fourth Management Plan is 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10 at the Arizona Department of Water Resources, 3550 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

“We need to start thinking about what those plans may look like and make small incremental changes and realize we are going to need to make bigger swings on the conservation side of these plans,” she said. “We are looking for engagement from the community to find areas where there can be increased conservation balance and practicality.”

Todd Patty, RCSCW Environmental Services manager, explained each golf course in the community has it’s own water rights, but each one is limited to how much they can use. Other options for unused water include leasing or selling, he added.

“Echo Mesa Executive Golf Course has 110 acres of turf and we plan to change a lot of that area on the course that does not come in to play,” he said. “We have identified areas we can take grass out and convert over to desert. This also includes changes to Grandview, Pebble Brook and Stardust.”

As a part of the fifth management plan, the oldest courses in the community will have to be addressed as there will be reductions in use and that will not be enough to water for all the turf on all the courses within the community. But, Mr. Patty encouraged members the courses will look different but remain playable

Sun City West Governing Board member Todd Hurley asked specifically about what that means as far as the look of each course.

“It means removing turf and putting down quarter-inch-minus granite. And putting in low water use plants and materials such as sage bushes, yucca and trees,” Mr. Patty said. “It will look attractive and we are not going to have waste areas.”

Ms. Schwind reassured the community based on the numbers provided by Ms. Mast on the fourth management plan, if in fact it is limited to 4.75 planted acres per hole, the RCSCW golf courses are well below that.

Editor’s Note: Sun Cities Editor Rusty Bradshaw contributed to this story.

Planning, future, water, Sun Cities