Sanitary district could run out of stored reclaimed water for irrigation by July 1, after foreclosures reduce wastewater available for treatment.
Potential reclaimed or effluent water shortages for irrigation are causing three golf courses in Fountain Hills, Ariz., to brace themselves for financial trouble this summer, The Arizona Republic reports.
While the Fountain Hills Sanitary District, which treats and disposes of wastewater and its byproducts, is under no obligation to find an alternate source, the utility is determined to find a solution before July 1, when the stored reclaimed water will likely run out.
The district provides reclaimed water free of charge to the town for three parks that have contracts to sell the water for irrigation purposes to SunRidge Canyon Golf Club, Eagle Mountain Golf Club and FireRock Country Club. Fountain Hills’ fourth golf course, Desert Canyon Golf Club, has its own well.
The sanitation district’s average daily flow of wastewater into the treatment plant is approximately 1.91 million gallons and during the summer, the average golf course uses just under 1 million gallons of reclaimed water a day.
Despite a previous overabundance of reclaimed water, increased demand by Eagle Mountain, drought conditions and poor economic conditions have made water availability scarce, says the sanitary district’s Manager, Ron Huber.
Huber also says that foreclosures and a lack of construction have resulted in less wastewater for treatment.
“With the alternative of having a golf course go out of business and the impact to the community, we’re going to do whatever we can to make this problem go away,” he says.
The most viable option to avoid a shortage, Huber says, is for the sanitary district to pursue a short-term, non-agricultural groundwater right lease, which he is confident he can secure before July.
“With development down right now, there are probably developers who have purchased water rights and who are not using them,” he says. “I am aware of at least several entities that have groundwater rights they are willing to lease in the short term.”
As long as the groundwater right is within the active management area for the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the district can pump the water to Fountain Hills.
“Before, SunRidge, Eagle Mountain and FireRock, Fountain Hills had a problem with [reclaimed] water,” says SunRidge Canyon’s General Manager, Jeff Lessig. “They were producing more than was needed, so the issue was what do we do with all this water? Now, the pendulum has swung back and there isn’t enough. How are the golf courses going to survive if they have to pay a higher rate for [drinking] water?”
The golf industry drives tourism in the area and the town relies on sales-tax revenue from the courses, Lessig adds. “I don’t know what industry in Fountain Hills generates more tax dollars than golf courses,” he notes.
The town of Fountain Hills collected more than $6.56 million in sales-tax revenue from July 1, 2011 through April 2012, public records show.
Eagle Mountain has mixed drinking water and reclaimed water for irrigation, but began using only reclaimed water in 2008 when the cost of drinking water increased 110 percent over three years. Joe Miller, Eagle Mountain’s Golf Course Superintendent, says golf courses use 90 percent of the water produced at the plant.