[GUEST COLUMN] New water line benefits customers

Photo via EPCOR Twitter

(Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents landowners and homebuilders working with the ACC and ADEQ to solve water and sewer utility issues in the San Tan Valley area.)

By Doug Dunham, Water Resources Manager, EPCOR

EPCOR has received a $250,000 grant from the Water Management Assistance Program at the Arizona Department of Water Resources, important funding that will help a group of agricultural and residential water users in the San Tan Valley maintain a sustainable future water supply while also playing an important in role in responsibly managing Arizona’s water for the future.

Prior to becoming the new owner, EPCOR had served as Interim Manager of Johnson Utilities for the last 30 months. During that time, excess treated wastewater from the utility’s Pecan Wastewater Treatment Plant has periodically been released into the Queen Creek wash due to current capacity limitations at the plant. Put simply, there was nowhere else for it to go.

Reclaimed wastewater is a valuable resource in Arizona, and we wanted to find a better, beneficial use for these excess flows. At the same time, water users in the New Magma Irrigation and Drainage District (NMIDD) between Queen Creek and Florence were facing potential water shortages as their CAP allotments were among the first to be impacted under the Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan.

EPCOR is the only private water utility to participate in the DCP Mitigation Agreement. Through its terms, we’ve committed to deliver up to 2,200 acre-feet of reclaimed water every year – enough to cover more than 2,200 football fields in a foot of water – to NMIDD from the Pecan plant. A new Pecan to New Magma Reclaim Water Line, which the ADWR grant will help fund, is the vehicle for doing that.

Putting this water to good use will reduce the impacts of loss of renewable water supply under the DCP for the New Magma farmers. Without it, these water users would need to rely on groundwater pumping to irrigate farms if there are shortages under the DCP agreement.

There is also a direct and tangible benefit to EPCOR’s San Tan (previously Johnson Utilities) customers. By saving groundwater from being pumped for irrigation, EPCOR will receive “recharge” credits from ADWR. Those credits can be used to partially offset costs that would usually be charged by the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District to replenish groundwater that has been pumped. Those credits, in turn, will help to lower the amount of the CAGRD fee on San Tan customer bills in the future.

EPCOR’s arrangement with NMIDD is a creative solution that conserves a critical water resource, helps farmers have an assured long-term water supply, and improves efficiency for the existing Pecan Wastewater Treatment Plant. To look even broader, this new pipeline and the benefits it brings supports the management goals of the Phoenix Active Management Area, which spans Maricopa and Pinal counties.

A sustainable water future for Arizona depends on people working together to leverage resources and expertise. We’re pleased that EPCOR’s new Pecan to Magma Reclaim Water Line will be a part of smart water management in the San Tan Valley for years to come.

With 35 years of environmental and water resources expertise, Doug Dunham is Manager of Water Resources for EPCOR USA, the largest regulated water provider in Arizona and the new water and wastewater service provider for San Tan (formerly Johnson Utilities) customers in the Florence, Queen Creek and San Tan Valley.

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February 2021