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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

On Friday, December 2, 2016, Craig Johnson, Executive Director of Water

Director of Water Services Craig Johnson

Services, invited me to the first of two tours to bring me up to speed on the current status of the city’s water department. We began with a staff meeting of the various department heads briefing me on the current activities within their departments. The water department

Water Service personnel

represents one of the Enterprise groups of the city. The Enterprise groups…water & sewer, sanitation and landfill are stand alone departments. They rely upon rate payers to fund the cost of their operations and maintenance. Although they are components of the city’s budget they do not rely upon the city’s General Fund.

I learned about the sources of water that the city uses to provide potable water…Central Arizona Project (CAP) water; Salt River Project (SRP) water;

Water Services personnel

and well water. The water that we drink in Glendale is usually a blend of all three sources. I learned about water management and how certain water treatment plants such as Pinnacle Peak’s usage is reduced during the winter months so that any required repairs can be performed when the demand is reduced. The different water resources are used in greater amounts during different times of the year. During the summer months the city will use more CAP water to meet the periods of highest demand.

If your water is warm coming out of the tap during the summer months there are reasons why that occurs. The water piping delivery system that is below ground is relatively shallow and as a result the water warms up. The well water we use also tends to be warm as well.

Glendale does not treat its sewage. Rather it has a percentage interest in the Sub Regional Operating Group ( SROG), a Phoenix facility to which various Valley cities belong. All member cities send their sewer water to SROG which cleans the water and then sells it to the Palo Verde Nuclear Facility for their cooling towers. The revenue earned from the sale of wastewater is distributed to each participant based upon each city’s level of participation.

I also had an opportunity to visit the Operations Center and viewed much of the equipment used by the water department. This department uses a wide variety of specialized equipment; from stocking residential water meters to huge commercial water meters; keeping a wide array of cameras in all shapes and sizes to inspect both water and sewer lines; and using various vehicles for specific applications. I found it interesting to learn that approximately 20 miles of water and/or sewer lines (about 2,000 miles of

One of cameras used to inspect pipes

lines annually) are inspected daily. The department has the ability to remove blockages that can save a street from being torn up. If I remember my stats correctly, the city’s meter readers ready approximately 450 meters a day.

It is obvious that the men and women of the city’s water department work hard to provide us with the safest drinking water possible, efficient removal of wastewater and an effective water delivery system.  They are proud of their work. They are dedicated to providing the very best service possible to the residents of Glendale.

My second foray into the water world was an invitation by Salt River Project to participate in a helicopter tour of their watershed area and their dam system on Friday, December 9, 2016. The last time I took their tour was about 10 years ago and I was fortunate enough to have been able to take my Dad (age 90). He never forgot it and talked about it often.

I and about a dozen other people, including Jenna Goad of Glendale’s Intergovernmental Department, Joy Rich, Maricopa County Manager, and Reid Spaulding, Maricopa Deputy County Manager were invited. Prior to the tour we were briefed by various Salt River Project (SRP) department heads. SRP is actually comprised of two divisions: the water distribution side and the power delivery side.

In the 1860’s Jack Swilling organized the first Valley irrigation system using the ancient Hohokam  canal system. For years it worked well but in the early 1900’s, the Valley experienced a period of extreme drought. Valley farmers recognized the need to develop a reliable water supply and so, they mortgaged their farms to raise the collateral to build SRP’s first retention dam, the Roosevelt Dam. The owners of 200,000 acres of Valley land formed the Salt River Valley Water Users Association, and became shareholders in the organization, according to how much land they owned. Other dams in the SRP watershed system include the Horse Mesa Dam at Apache Lake, the Mormon Flat Dam at Canyon Lake, the Stewart Mountain Dam at Saguaro Lake, Horseshoe Dam, Bartlett Dam, Granite Reef Diversion Dam and the C.C. Cragin Dam. Currently SRP’s watershed is 47% full.

Although it was slightly chilly, the day was crisp and the air clean. The helicopter tour lasted about an hour and a half and fortunately, no barf bags were employed. At times we were no more than about 500 feet above ground and had wonderful views of each of the dam structures.

It was a wonderful opportunity and SRP is to be thanked for providing such an opportunity to learn in-depth about their water delivery systems. They are to be commended for providing all those on the tour representing other municipalities and Maricopa county a close up view of the Valley’s water supply.

© Joyce Clark, 2016        

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This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Lately the hot button issue for Glendale has been the topic of irrigation of Glendale’s original town site. Before we delve into the issue, a little Irrigation 101 is necessary. Glendale residents have 3 primary water sources. It has a system of ground wells from which it pumps water. It also gets a portion of its water from Salt River Project (SRP). SRP water territory covers from approximately the middle of Glendale, all of south Glendale and west Glendale. Glendale also gets its water from the Central Arizona Project (CAP). CAP’s water territory is from the middle of Glendale, north of SRP territory, and all of north Glendale. CAP water is very, very expensive. It’s about 15 times the cost of an SRP acre foot of water. Why? CAP water comes from the Colorado River allotment to the state of Arizona. CAP rate payers are not just paying for the water but for the relatively recent construction of the delivery system from the Colorado River – hundreds of miles of canal and the delivery pipes from the canal system.

I live on a street of 30 homes of an acre or better. We get SRP irrigation. When we bought our home 16 years ago, I immediately contacted SRP and set up an irrigation account with them. Water rights in the West are sacred. They often run with the land and are worth their weight in gold.  We have at least a dozen citrus trees and another dozen shade trees on our back property. They could not survive without irrigation water for we could not afford their upkeep if we had to use city water. Our SRP water irrigation bill is about $110 a year. It’s a veritable bargain.

The irrigation process itself is quite simple. I used to physically and periodically go to the SRP irrigation board and sign up for my water allotment delivery. During the summer water is delivered every 2 weeks. During the winter it is once a month. There is one month, usually January, that we receive no water when SRP shuts the canal system down for annual maintenance.

Nowadays, my water allotment is all done by computer. I fill out my request online once a year and check the option of having the allotment be the same every time. Then SRP sends me an email notice a week prior to the delivery date, telling me the day, date and time of my water delivery. When the water is delivered it is our responsibility to go to our gate and open it up and after the water is received, shut it down. We have no choice in the time of water delivery. We have gotten water, for example, at 2 AM. 80% of the time, it is delivered during daylight hours.

SRP regulations require us to maintain the private portion of the delivery pipe system. That means SRP delivers the water to a central location for our street and the water pipe that runs underground from home to home is private and not SRP’s responsibility to maintain. If there is a problem with our private portion SRP will notify everyone on our street and request that it be repaired before it makes any further water deliveries. It’s only happened twice in the past 16 years. Everyone on the street puts money in the kitty and we either hire someone to repair the system or do it ourselves. In the two previous instances we were able to do the repair ourselves.  

So, why all the fussin’ and feudin’ about Glendale town site irrigation water? I guess a little Glendale history is in order. I don’t pretend to know the entire history but I do know just enough, I guess, to get me into trouble. Glendale was incorporated in 1912. It was a small, rural, farming community.  All of the farmers lived in and around the original town site. Water was their life blood. All of Glendale’s elected officials came from in and around the town site. It was logical to them to have their town maintain and operate their SRP water delivery system and it remained so for many years. For years, until 1990, Glendale’s elected officials came from a small, concentrated downtown area. In 1990, the voters of Glendale adopted a district system of representation. Then the SRP water delivery system lost its priority. Now there were people from middle and north Glendale who were not within SRP territory and could care less about irrigation in old town Glendale.

Yet the city remained responsible for the maintenance and operation of the SRP water delivery system for “old” Glendale. It paid lip service to that commitment. It performed minimal repairs on the delivery system and hired a “Zanjero” (water master) to open and close the water gates throughout the system. Irrigation customers in that area pay higher rates than we do because they pay for the Zanjero and maintenance of the entire system.

Glendale’s deliberate inattention to the system caused many irrigation users to drop off and today there are only about 300 users on the system. Glendale would like to extract itself from this irrigation system in its entirety. The current users sense that this is Glendale’s goal and they are anxious. They want to get the word out to residents who could use the irrigation but do not currently do so. They want more users and more voices to preserve and protect their water delivery system.

Frankly, they are getting a good deal. No wonder they want it to continue. They never have to get up in the middle of the night to open a water gate and they never have to worry about repairing a water pipe. Perhaps there is a solution out there. If it satisfies no one it’s probably a good compromise. The city should finally invest in making the repairs needed for a healthy water delivery system and have it certified by an independent party that the system is in good, working order. Then and only then, it should turn that system over to the users. The users should then set up their individual accounts with SRP and be prepared to open/close their own gates and to bear the costs of repair when required. It gets the city out of the irrigation business and it returns individual control to the irrigation users who end up paying far less annually for their irrigation water. So there is water, water everywhere. The question is who should be responsible for the delivery system and its maintenance?

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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