GUEST COMMENTARY

Water concerns exist in Sun City West

Posted 6/28/22

Although attendance was small, it was a lively meeting with good participation from committee members and the public attendees.

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GUEST COMMENTARY

Water concerns exist in Sun City West

Posted

 

lthough attendance was small, it was a lively meeting with good participation from committee members and the public attendees.

I welcomed all and proceeded to comment on water issues to be discussed. The opening discussion followed some of the slides from the Property Owners And Residents Association Water PowerPoint presentation. For those who are interested, this presentation can be accessed by visiting www.porascw.org/water.

It was mentioned that the occurrence of “fugitive water” appears to have decreased this year; however, an instance of pool drainage into the street was mentioned. This water will not be recovered for aquifer recharge since it will eventually drain into the Agua Fria riverbed and be absorbed into the dry ground. The committee recommends use of the sewer cleanout piping available at each home/business to dispose of excess water. This practice will access the EPCOR wastewater system and lead to recharge of the aquifer after treatment at their facility.

The committee remains concerned about the status of the aquifer that supplies 100% of our water needs. It was noted that there are new residential developments proposed for the north and northwest area of the city of Surprise, just across Loop 303 from Sun City West.

The number of homes proposed for these new developments total 26,000. Since these are family-oriented communities, this represents well over 60,000 new residents in the future. Remember these developments obtain their water from the same aquifer as Sun City West since there are no city water facilities in the area. The chairman reminded the meeting that to date, Sun City West water wells have not shown any adverse effects from the nearby developments. However, with the increase in activity, commercial and residential around the 303 corridor, there will surely be an adverse effect on our future water supply.

Discussion turned to the status of Lakes Mead and Powell on the Colorado River, which supply 40% of Arizona’s water. Although Sun City West does not have direct access to Colorado River water, those that do now have their allotments curtailed. In many of these cases, the fallback water source is groundwater pumping, and this is another red flag for the health of our aquifer.

Todd Patty, Recreation Center of Sun City West Environmental Services Manager, reported on the Grandview golf course irrigation and turf reduction project. He was able to obtain grant money to help with some of the cost of this water conservation effort. Turf reduction and desertizing out-of-play areas have been designated and mapped out. These areas will be converted in spring 2023 when the course will be closed. Reopening is now set for late 2023. Another item of interest that Todd presented was the current precipitation outlook for the U.S. that indicates an above normal rainfall for the desert Southwest.

Additional discussion centered on issues of large outside corporations that exploit water in two different ways. First there is the problem of mega farms occupying large, unregulated areas, drilling high volume water wells for their crops and then exporting the products out of state and even out of the country. These farms are depleting local aquifers to the point where local small communities and farms have experienced wells drying up. Because of state laws, or lack thereof, these operations are legal because they work outside the jurisdiction of the Arizona Dept of Water Resources.

Another more recent issue regarding buying and selling of water rights was also discussed. Communities short on water resources that hinder expansion efforts are willing to purchase water rights from anyone and large corporations have been formed to acquire water rights just for this purpose. This practice will certainly lead to much higher water bills for those living in the affected communities. A test case is currently being reviewed by the Bureau of Reclamation that involves the town of Queen Creek. A book referencing this water marketing method is called “Blue Gold.”

The pros and cons of converting grassy areas to desert rock also were reviewed. Conversions are expensive and should be carefully studied to revise irrigation systems and avoid damage to remaining trees and shrubs.

Water conservation information is available from EPCOR via its website. There you will receive information about meter reading, leak detection, watering schedules for landscaping items, etc.

Finally, the chairman noted a number of sources for water issues were listed on the agenda handout. “H2O, The Molecule That Made Us, Episode III,” “Blue Gold,” and the “Myth of Safe-Yield” were specifically mentioned. Also, the ADWR website contains information on every topic related to water statewide. Look for news.azwater.gov.

For the summer months, the Water Committee will not meet in July and August. The next meeting will be held Sept. 20 at 9:30 am in the PORA office. Many thanks to all who have attended and contributed to our meetings and discussions.

For reporting water issues for the community and state, I may be contacted at David.Hunter@porascw.org.

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