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


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