Chandler sees no threat of water supply - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler sees no threat of water supply

September 11th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler sees no threat of water supply

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Arizona author Edward Abbey wrote “Desert Solitaire” as a tribute to the Colorado River and the excellent canyons it carved in Southern Utah before Glen Canyon was flooded by a new dam near Page in the 1960s, creating Lake Powell.

His novel, “Monkey Wrench Gang,” plotted blowing up that dam, freeing the canyons hidden underneath that water.

Turns out Abbey only needed to wait a few decades: The drought did what his fictional band of eco-terrorists could not.

The water levels of both Lake Powell and Lake Mead are at record lows since the dams were constructed to supply energy and drinking water for most of the Southwest.

Earlier this month Mexico and the seven states that share that water were told by the U.S. government it’s time to get serious about conserving what’s left.

“On Aug. 16, the Bureau of Reclamation did release the August 2022-24 study, which is the tool that sets the operating tier for the upcoming year,” said Simone Kjolsrud, Chandler’s water resource advisor.

“So for 2023, they declared a Tier 2 shortage on the Colorado River. And that is a 592,000-acre foot reduction to Arizona, all of which falls on the Central Arizona Project because that’s within Arizona — that’s a lower priority compared to other Arizona users.”

If that sounds like a lot of water, it is. It converts to about 193 billion gallons. That’s how much Arizona is supposed to cut in the coming year, but it won’t impact Chandler too much, Kjolsrud said.

“For Chandler, it represents a 3% reduction in our Colorado River supplies, which is less than a 1% reduction in our total supplies for the year. So it’s a small reduction for us in 2023,” he explained.

Chandler is doing so well in managing its water resources, the city intends to submit its 100-year plan for water use a year early.

Cities that wish to continue new developments have to show they have secured enough water rights for the next 100 years to serve both the existing population and whatever new development they hope to pursue.

They usually have to update this plan every 10 to 15 years. The authorization for the city’s current 100-year plan does not expire until Dec. 31, 2023, but they’re ready to submit their new plan now.

“Yes, there’s a lot happening on the Colorado River,” Kjolsrud said. “And there’s a lot in the media and some of those headlines can be a little bit scary.

“The thing to remember is that just because there is shortage on the Colorado River doesn’t mean there is a shortage at the tap. This is not a surprise. People who work in the field of water management have been expecting this for years, we’ve been preparing for it for decades.”

There are a number of reasons why Chandler’s water supply is in good shape, she said.

First, more than half the city gets its water from the Salt River Project, which relies on water from the Salt and Verde rivers. Those are in much better shape than the Colorado River.

When asked why, Kjolsrud said she’s no hydrologist, but is told climate change is not impacting the central part of Arizona as severely as it is the Colorado River region.

SRP serves most of the northern half of the city. Nearly a century ago, Chandler farmers agreed to use the mortgage on their homes to secure the loans needed to build the dams on the Salt and Verde rivers, Kjolsrud said.

That act means they will always have rights to the water, even after those farms are long gone and housing developments have taken their place.

However, it’s the reason many users in southern Chandler do not have access to SRP water and must rely the Colorado River. The farmers on their land, if there were any back then, did not agree to put their farms up as collateral so they have no rights to any of the SRP supply.

Still, Chandler has secured enough water rights and filled up its own aquifer so it can pump water to overcome any shortages coming from the Colorado River, Kjolsrud said.

“Chandler reuses 100% of every single drop of water that goes down the drain,” Kjolsrud said. “So that is one of the reasons why we really want, when we’re asking our community to focus on conservation and be very mindful about water use, we always want to focus on outdoor water use.

“Every drop that goes down a shower or toilet or a sink or a laundry, all of that water goes to our water. We recycle all of that water and we reuse all of it.”

The water is treated at one of three reclamation facilities the city operates. Some of that water is then used by commercial customers and not intended to drink. The rest goes into recharge stations to keep the city’s aquifer high.

Kjolsrud said one of the best programs the city runs to conserve the precious resource is Water Wise, where city officials will come to your home, inspect it, and look for ways to save water.

She said the conservation staff visits about 1,000 homes a year. Many times, Kjolsrud said, it could be a simple thing that saves a lot of water. For example, teaching a resident how to schedule their lawn sprinklers to go off in the middle of the night, instead of mid-afternoon when it’s hottest.

She said those conservation efforts have paid off, with the city having conserved about 20% of its per capita water use. And she said that’s all residents, not just savings from switching from a primarily agricultural community to a residential one.

“It’s something that we all need to be aware of and pay attention to and do everything we can to use water as efficiently as possible,” she said. “But we don’t need to lose sleep that there might not be water coming out of the tap.”