City assures residents it has plenty of water
by Glendale Chamber of Commerce on October 22nd, 2015

By CAROLYN DRYER,  The Glendale Star
While California has been experiencing its worst drought in several decades, Arizonans are wondering when they will be told to cut back on their own water use.

There is always that fear of a water shortage. But those fears were put to rest last week by water resource and use professionals at a Glendale Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Salt River Project representatives Robin Stinnett and Bruce Hallin, and City of Glendale Water Conservation Environmental Program Manager Joann Toms each gave specifics about water and how West Valley cities are educating their residents in ways to better conserve this valuable resource.

Stinnett and Hallin gave a history of the Valley’s water sources, and the new challenge that lies ahead: forest restoration and protection of the watershed. Stinnett said reclaimed water is a growing source of the Valley’s supply.

Hallin said the forests along the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona, where much of the Valley’s water supply comes from, have been mismanaged the past 20 to 25 years for various reasons.
“Healthy forest equals healthy water supply,” Hallin said.

He explained how important healthy forests are to a long-lasting water supply, which fosters healthy economic development.

“If there is one city I would want to reside in during a drought,it is Phoenix because of the diversity of supply. I hope you get that message,” Hallin said.

When he said Phoenix, he was including the City of Glendale and a selected few other West Valley cities because of their water management programs.

In the City of Glendale, Toms explained the diverse water supply: 43 percent from SRP watershed and a lot of that originates from snow; 37 percent Central Arizona Project (CAP); 13 percent groundwater; and 7 percent reclaimed water.

An interesting note is the fact that Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant is one of very few in the world that uses effluent for its cooling towers.

When panel facilitator Linda Brady of SRP asked if the Valley was experiencing a water shortage, Stinnett’s short answer was, “No.”

Hallin said, “The Salt River system was built for drought. So, we’ve developed this infrastructure to ensure we have a reliable water supply in a drought.”

Stinnett said the Arizona Groundwater Act established by the Arizona Department of Water Resources requires mandatory water conservation.

“It has moved us away from groundwater dependence,” Stinnett said.

In fact, there are four projects – Roosevelt Dam, CAP Canal, CAP/SRP interconnect, and New River-Agua Fria River Underground Storage Project – for water storage. Glendale and three other cities are partners in the New River-Agua Fria River project.

Stinnett said there are 11 underground storage facilities in our area. They filtrate the water back to the ground to replenish the groundwater supply.

Toms had encouraging words for Glendale residents, saying, “We don’t just rely on groundwater. We have multiple water sources.”

One of the sources comes from the mountains, and Hallin, who has been with SRP 26 years, said in the late 1980s, there was a transition on how the 13,000 square miles of forests are managed. He said they are now overgrown and “extremely unhealthy.”

Since the turn of the century, nearly two million acres of forest have burned. In one Arizona forest alone, Hallin said, in the 1980s, there were 20 trees to an acre, and now, there are 2,000 to 20,000 trees per acre. Before 2000, fires were low burning, which removed scrub brush and other low-lying growth, whereas, today, thousands of mature trees are going up in flames.
Today, Hallin said, forests are “moonscapes,” and water cannot infiltrate into the ground.
As a result, the water that flows down the mountains ends up in Valley water supplies, and it requires treatment, which is expensive.

“The actual runoff from the Sunflower fire of 2012 (which burned 18,000 acres), water and ash ended up in treatment plants,” Hallin said.

He said SRP is now working with various forest restoration agencies with the goal to thin one million acres. The Northern Arizona Forest Fund enables cities, SRP, and business investments for the U.S. Forest Service to get treatment on the ground. The NAFF was created to help improve forest health and water quality in the Salt and Verde River watersheds.
Hallin said it is not just for water supply, but for recreation and residents who live near the forest.

With an increased population, what is the impact on Glendale’s water supplies?
Toms said, “Glendale has an assured water supply for 100 years. Before lands are subdivided, water comes first.”

She said the gallons per capita per day have gone down, from 212 gallons to 125.
“Residents have made changes themselves,” Toms said.

As a person who loves history, Toms said the city needs to let residents know it has been providing water services for 100 years. The traveling water history display has been set up at Arrowhead Towne Center, Glendale Community College and the Glendale Convention and Visitors Bureau in downtown Glendale.

Residents should be aware of the city’s rebate program for those who remove turf or other water-hungry vegetation. To date, Toms said the city has offered enough rebates to cover 73 football fields of drought-tolerant landscapes.

Glendale Councilmember Bart Turner asked what the water outlook was like for cities in the East Valley not on SRP.

Stinnett said some of those cities may not have as much water, but they are obligated to work through the Central Arizona Water Replenishment Project.

“Count on them using reclaimed water,” Stinnett said. “There’s a current study looking to close the gap between future development and current water supplies.”

To learn more about the six projects selected by the National Forest Foundation for 2015-16, see the news release at www.srpnet.com/water/forest/naff.aspx.


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