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Maricopa CDWID office is on Garvey Avenue.

The City of Maricopa is not taking over Global Water Resources anytime soon, but it is courting Maricopa Consolidated Domestic Water Improvement District.

A special taxing district, Maricopa CDWID is the water utility for properties in the Heritage District, some of the oldest homes in town. City Manager Rick Horst visited the CDWID board in February to explain the benefits of a union. From accounts of the meeting, the CDWID is not enthusiastic about the prospect.

Taking over the improvement district has been in the City’s long-range plans for a while.

The City and CDWID have been in something of a relationship for a while, too. The City, in fact, was paying the utility’s rent in the Duke Plaza. But Maricopa CDWID cleared out in October, apparently without notice, as it moved to a building that was a daycare on Garvey Avenue.

When Holiday Inn Express was flirting with the idea of building in the Heritage District a decade ago, developers had been concerned about the flow capability at the time. An intergovernmental agreement between the utility and the City allowed a 200,000-gallon water tank to be placed where CDWID’s offices were and moved the offices to the Duke Plaza.

In 2017, the water improvement district merged with the much smaller New Saddleback Vista DWID and now serves around 350 connections. Maricopa CDWID does not provide sewer service.

Horst said a takeover would mean lower water bills, a better system and better property tax rates. It would also eliminate the need for the board and the district tax.

“We can guarantee rates for 10 years,” Horst said, adding part of the board’s reluctance was “a fear of an increase in rates.”

The plan would have the City take over ownership and operations of the CDWID system after the proposed takeover, relieving the City of the expense of hiring administration and operators for the utility. The City would then turn to an appropriate vendor, such as Global Water, for day-to-day management.

Horst told the board, with few details, there were three large developments pending for Maricopa. Lack of sewer service, he said, had caused some issues with developing properties in the Heritage District.

Horst said there was little response from the utility board while he was there, but they had a full discussion after he departed the meeting.

District Engineer Bill Collings expressed doubts the City could legally lock in rates as Horst suggested. He also said capacity had not been a problem in a recent flow test for the Sonoran Creek development, which is to bring more retail to the area between Culver’s and Dutch Bros.

According to the minutes, the board felt Horst was trying to be intimidating when he said the CDWID would be responsible if the City were to be sued for not providing services and protection. Field Operations Manager Gilbert Sanchez told the board the CDWID is not required to provide fire protection because it is not a fire district.

While Horst said he had a list of complaints that included the utility’s lack of working with Maricopa Fire/Medical Department on flow tests, Sanchez told the board the CDWID allowed hydrant blow-offs for fires and department training “at no cost to the City.”

Meanwhile, Maricopa CDWID is wooing Valle Escondido Domestic Water Improvement District, which has expressed interest in a merger. Maricopa CDWID already has agreements with Valle Esondido as well as Seven Ranches, Papago Butte and Thunderbird Irrigation Water Delivery District No. 1. When the Papago Butte DWID water tested high for nitrates in March, for instance, the warning against giving it to infants came through Maricopa CDWID management.

The City continues to pay rent for the empty space in the Duke Plaza vacated by CDWID. Horst said if the City had been given a heads-up about CDWID’s decision to move its office, there would have been more time to find another tenant for the rooms.

Maricopa CDWID provides water to homes and businesses in the Heritage District.

Global Water is the main water utility in Maricopa.

Near the end of last year, Global Water customers received notifications they needed to change the address where they were sending their payments and correspondence.

The message was straight-forward, but behind the scenes the company was scrambling.

FATHOM Water Systems, the company that handled much of Global Water’s customer relations – including billing and call center, announced it was closing down. FATHOM had been formed by Global Water during the recession before it was sold in 2013 to an investor group led by a private equity firm.

“FATHOM notified us Nov. 9 that they would be terminating operations as of Nov. 30,” General Manager Jon Corwin said in a presentation to Maricopa City Council Tuesday. “That’s a pretty short timeline, only about three weeks. We had to essentially take their services and find an alternative solution or bring it in-house.”

Jon Corwin updates Maricopa City Council on activities at Global Water Resources. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

He said typically that kind of transition takes at least six months.

Across the country, FATHOM’s 16 municipal and private utility clients were left in the same boat as Fathom announced it was shutting down “due to financial difficulties.”

A statement reading, “Despite a massive effort this year, we have not been able to secure an investment or additional debt to save our business,” was about the only explanation FATHOM provided to clients. Its shutdown timeline eventually was extended into mid-December.

FATHOM, Corwin said, gave Global the opportunity to go with another vendor. However, Corwin said that would have included an eight-year contract and a 65% increase in costs. For the company and the rate-payers, he said, that would have been “unacceptable.”

“So, ultimately, we decided to go it alone and bring those services back in-house.”

Corwin said Global had a contingency plan in case Fathom stopped operating. That included hiring 12 former FATHOM employees. He said Global had expected to transition away from FATHOM to in-house serves eventually, though not anticipating it would go in “the manner that it did or as quickly as it did.”

From Covina, California, to Rutland, Vermont, municipal and private utilities rushed to find solutions as well. Some quickly found new vendors, while others chose Global Water’s path of moving the services in-house.

Reestablishing relationships with other vendors and signing new contracts were a priority. There were also delays in information being updated in the customer portal. In Cedar Hill, Texas, January bills were delayed, so a moratorium was placed on disconnects and extra fees. Menlo Park, California, too, anticipating late billing, lifted all late fees even before the transition.

Corwin said Global Water “worked intensely” with several vendors to acquire software platforms to continue services as smoothly as possible. Services needed were customer portal, billing, call center, customer information center, advanced metering data collection and work orders.

The call center, he said, had “reduced functionality for about a week and a half.”

The transition is ongoing, but some hiccups are expected. “The Process went about as smoothly as it could have gone.”

Mayor Christian Price thanked Global for the accommodation made to customers. “I know it could have been a very ugly process.”

Global Water also provided updates on completed, ongoing and new projects, including the upcoming extension of a 16-inch water main to Loma Road to serve Estrella Gin Business Park.

In response to a query from Councilman Henry Wade, Corwin said he thinks the Corporation Commission appreciates and respects the work Global Water is putting into the projects.

Councilwoman Julia Gusse publicly commended Corwin for the company’s behind-the-scenes accommodations for veterans. “I know one of the things we’ve been talking about back and forth is making sure our vets that are deployed aren’t paying the exorbitant cost of having their water on when they’re not even at home, so thank you for addressing those.”


If you are a customer who mails in your payment to Global Water every month, make sure to update the mailing address. The water company issued a press release today to all customers about the change:

“Global Water’s payment mailing address has changed. Please make sure your mailed payments are sent to the correct address. The new address for mailed payments is:

PO Box 29072
MSC 771
Phoenix, AZ 85038

If you mail your water and/or sewer payment to Global Water, make sure the payment stub reflects the address shown above. A sample payment stub with the correct address is shown below. If you receive your bill after 12/19/2019 the payment stub will have the updated address.

If you use your bank’s auto-pay system to mail your payment, please update the mailing address with your bank. If you do not update the mailing address with your bank check pay, your payment could be sent to our old address and therefore returned. The payment will continue to go to the old address and be returned to you until you update the address in your bank’s bill pay service.

If you send a payment to the old address and it arrives after 12/31/2019, it may be returned to you or your bank in the mail. If your payment is returned, please re-send it to the updated address shown above or you can drop it off at our office in Maricopa.”

You can still pay online at https://gwresources.watersmart.com, pay at our office, or call 866-940-1102 to make a payment. You can email questions to www.CustomerService@gwresources.com.”

View the Press Release for more details on the transition.

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The Maricopa City Council approved the extension of a 16-inch water main down State Route 238 west of Maricopa Tuesday evening at their regularly scheduled meeting.

In a three-way agreement, a 16-inch water main will be extended one mile from its present location at Smith-Enke Road and SR 347 by Global Water Resources then the City of Maricopa will extend the line another three miles west along SR 238 with the goal of servicing the new Apex Motor Club location. The cost of the line is estimated to be about $750,000 per mile, possibly more.

The city’s share of the extension is $1.5 million, and Apex will kick in $1 million.

The city eventually is expected to recoup its $1.5 million from Global Water as developers build in the area and pay to tap into the new water main.

Global will also pay for the upsizing of the water main along the city’s three-mile extension area from 12-inch to 16-inch pipe.

At the city council meeting, a citizen asked members of the council what the city will gain from spending $1.5 million for the extension.

City Manager Rick Horst said the Maricopa city limits already extend west of the city into the area where the water line will be constructed. He said other municipal utilities also are available in the area.

“We are currently looking at making this as an economic development investment,” Horst said. “This is a program to have 100 percent of this returned to us by the utility. It is an investment with a full return of it back to the city. What this does for us is open up thousands of acres for future development, both residential and commercial. More importantly, as a part of our strategic plan process, we are looking at a long-range industrial park with a possible rail spur inland port. It will support future jobs. We are making a performance investment with 100 percent return in exchange for tens if not hundreds of millions in private investments.”

Ron Fleming, CEO of Global, said Monday that extending the 16-inch trunk line one mile west will improve water pressures and services to residents and businesses already in the area. The line extension will connect in the Estrella Gin area, near the location of the new fire department. The city also has the Estrella Gin business park, that is a 50+ acre, city-owned parcel located just west of the intersection of Edison Road and Roosevelt Avenue.


Photo by Victor Moreno

Maricopa has the water to grow, but it also has a plan.

“Maricopa has had tremendous growth in its early incorporation,” said Kazi Haque, Maricopa’s assistant director of Development Services.

Haque said one of the big hurdles the city has to jump is the flood plain, as it is holding up the construction of 2,000 to 3,000 homes that have been approved. The proposed homes sit in the flood plain.

Transportation corridors are another big concern highlighted in the city’s planning.

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Councilman gives Arizona 30 years left to survive
O’Halleran: Drought means no shortage of water issues
Contingency plan bites into Pinal County agriculture
GWR touts strong water future

“We have been practicing sustainable development,” Haque said. “Our Vision 2040 that our council approved several years ago in 2015 gives us the overall vision of which direction the city needs to go. That was our citizen-driven vision process. These are the ideas we’ve gotten from the citizens, telling us what to do.”

Once the city has a vision it is written into the general plan.

“It gives everybody a blueprint of our physical development for the next 15-20 years,” he said. “These are state-required policies that we have to maintain. Every city and town of a general population has to have a plan,” Haque said.

He said the general plan is the only governing document that must be approved by the voters of a community.

“This is approved by the voters, and we hear what the voters want,” said City of Maricopa public information officer Adam Wolfe. “Each department develops their own strategic plan to achieve these goals. We model our next year or two based on these goals. We do take this to heart. This is what our citizens want, and this is what they have approved.”

One advantage of Maricopa being such a young city compared to most in Arizona is that the infrastructure is new and built with technology and the future in mind.

“When you can develop things from the start that are more efficient, you have a much more sustainable city,” said Wolfe.

Haque said planned growth is also more sustainable because a city can provide infrastructure like water more effectively when growth happens in an area, not “leap-frogging” around the city.

“We plan for it and make it more cohesive rather than fragmented,” Haque said adding, “You plan it but sometimes things go wrong. We try to be cognizant of those facts and educate our staff and ourselves all of the time. We are up to date on technology as well as the rules and regulations.”

Haque said Maricopa is one of the last areas around Phoenix that has large tracts of land available.

“In 2003, they were building homes out here, 60 miles away from the county seat,” Haque said. “There was no real oversight. They were just rapidly building homes. The founding fathers thought they better have control of this place, or it would just be another town out in the desert. That’s when they decided to create a city.”

Though Arizona remains in a long-term drought that has lasted more than 20 years, an assured water supply in Maricopa has prevented the serious concern its possible depletion has caused in the rest of the state. As a result, Haque said Maricopa has “great potential” for growth. The city’s planning area actually covers 270 square miles. In all, the city has the potential to add up to 250,000 residential homes if it actually builds out its planning area.

The city’s planning area goes as far south as Interstate 8.

Haque said planning for inside the city’s boundaries is one thing, but there are variables  the city can’t control, namely road construction that connects Maricopa with the outside world.

“We have this vision. We have the resources set up,” Haque said. “You have to plan it in advance to make sure the infrastructure is in place. If we look at our projection in 2030 or 2040 or 2050, do we have adequate roads? Can they hold current traffic?”

Maricopa may plan their city, but they don’t own the roads leading to Phoenix, Chandler and Casa Grande.

“We need the resources right now,” Haque said. “When you talk outside the city limits you’re talking big money. If you’re talking about east-west corridors and that kind of stuff to Casa Grande and I-10, we’re talking about a lot of money.”

Wolfe said inside the city “we’re in very good shape. We have the plan and we have the natural resources in place like water. The only thing that limits potentially Maricopa from growing is roads. It is access to the city. When you go out of the city limits, we don’t control the roads.”

Wolfe said the City of Maricopa is working with its partners, the state of Arizona and the Gila River Indian Community to make needed improvements take place.

“If you get 160,000 people here by 2050, you have to make sure they can access other areas,” Wolfe said.

Photo by Jim Headley

In Arizona’s newly passed Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), farmers in Pinal County stand to lose two-thirds of the irrigation water they have been receiving from the Colorado River.

Brian Betcher, Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District

The DCP is an effort to keep the Colorado River’s major reservoirs from reaching catastrophically low levels. DCP goes into effect when levels in Lake Mead hit a specified low level of 1090 MSL (mean sea level). Lake Mead is currently at 1085 MSL, meaning water experts believe Arizona will likely lose quite a bit of their Colorado River allocations in 2020.

Brian Betcher, general manager of the Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District, testified twice before state legislative committees as they were forging and approving the DCP.

“Happy is not a great word,” Betcher said. “(I am) satisfied that they preserved what was agreed to in the steering committee.”

Betcher said the agriculture industry in Arizona was able to get the minimum amount of water necessary to keep ag alive in the agreement.

“It is the best that we could probably do in this environment. It is important to the state that the DCP gets done. We (ag) are the lowest priority water user group. There stands to be a huge potential for economic loss in the ag community in Pinal County,” Betcher said.

Without DCP in place, Arizona would still lose a total of 320,000-acre feet of water from the Colorado River. When the DCP is fully triggered, in the event Lake Mead gets below 1075 MSL (mean sea level), an extra 192,000-acre feet will be held back. This means Arizona effectively loses 512,000-acre feet of water from the Colorado River if the drought continues.

Also in the series Drought & Development
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GWR touts strong water future for Maricopa
O’Halleran: Drought means no shortage of water issues

Last year, Lake Mead hit 1076.54 MSL and, with the worst drought in a millennium continuing into its 21st year, hydrologists are not optimistic about Arizona’s ability to avoid the full implementation of DCP.

“In the current system, without a shortage, the first 300,000-acre foot of water that’s not going to long-term users is dedicated to CAP (Central Arizona Project) agriculture, of which Pinal County has the biggest percentage of that whole pool,” Betcher said.

If there is a water shortage in 2020, with the 512,000-acre foot reduction in effect, “that would wipe out all of the 300,000 acre-feet” in Pinal County’s CAP system.

“Without the DCP plan in effect, we would still have some water left but the lake (Mead) would be worse off,” Betcher said.

In a hypothetical irrigation water loss study, the University of Arizona found the effects on Pinal County and its economy could be enormous.

If there were a loss of 300,000-acre feet of water, the study estimated:

  • $63.5 million to $66.7 million loss in gross farm-gate sales (this accounts for 7 percent)
  • $94 million to $104 million loss in total county sales (farm and non-farm sales)
  • $31.7 million to $35 million loss in county value added (this includes net farm income, profits in other industries, employee compensation and tax revenues)
  • 240 to 480 loss in full-time and part-time jobs

If there are the expected DCP water shortages in 2020, there will be 105,000 acre-feet left that can go to CAP agriculture, according to Betcher. That amount will be focused primarily on Pinal County.

“But that is a reduction from 300,000-acre feet,” he said.

Currently, producers in the Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District receive 82,000 acre-feet annually and that would be reduced to about 35,000 acre-feet from the Colorado River under DCP.

The loss of water from the Colorado leaves ag producers with only one answer, bolstering lowered river irrigation feeds with groundwater pumped from the aquifer.

Pumping groundwater is expensive and laborious, and everyone is trying to use less, not more, groundwater.

“We have been preparing for drought for a long time. We have access to a lot of old wells that have been drilled in the area for agriculture and we can bring them back online. It’s not cheap and it’s not easy,” Betcher said. “It’s not going to make up for the total loss. We will try to make up with as much as we can.”

He said they have told their district members that 30 to 40 percent of lands in the area could go fallow and not be farmed.

“We have been preparing for drought for a long time. We have access to a lot of old wells that have been drilled in the area for agriculture and we can bring them back online. It’s not cheap and it’s not easy.”

The Central Arizona Irrigation and Drainage District in the Eloy area said it could be worse for them, according to Betcher. He said it might be 40 to 50 percent of fields going fallow in the Eloy area.

“Now, we both use ‘might’ because we have never been faced with this since we’ve had CAP water,” Betcher said. “You’re trying to project what the loss of farmlands is going to be. A farmer is not going to plant a crop if he is not sure he has enough water to see it to harvest.”

Betcher said Colorado River water cutbacks to 105,000-acre feet in the CAP system will take Pinal County agriculture “right to the edge of sustainability.”

He added that these cuts, “for some may be too much. Farmers have been a resilient lot for a long, long time. We’ve been living in a world of conservation since 1980, when the ground water act was passed.”

Betcher said farmers of the area and the irrigation districts have masterfully achieved fantastic conservation rates since the 1980s.

In the 1980s, experts noticed that groundwater levels were falling. Arizona began a deliberate plan to use more surface water and not pump as much groundwater, Betcher said.

“They (ag producers) had every right to do their pumping. We have put water back, so we have a supply that we can use during a shortage. But these guys don’t want to pump any more than they have to. We sure hope we don’t have to do it very long.”

“There is some good news here because of what the state has done. Arizona has been a leader in the country in terms of their prior planning. They made a decision years ago that they were going to take as much water off the river as they possibly could. Partly because they were protecting their allocation against California and claiming they don’t need all the water they were given. We have been storing it underground,” he said.

Betcher said the cities have built underground storage facilities by running water into an underground basin and letting it percolate down into the groundwater. The plan is to use this water in times like the current drought.

This practice helps groundwater levels from naturally falling if left untouched and even helps raise groundwater levels because CAP water has been delivered in this area for years, groundwater pumping was reduced dramatically.

“The groundwater levels have actually come back up,” Betcher said. “We now have a lot more water in storage below ground then we had before CAP got here. We had depleted the groundwater. They (ag producers) had every right to do their pumping. We have put water back, so we have a supply that we can use during a shortage. But these guys don’t want to pump any more than they have to. We sure hope we don’t have to do it very long.”

Betcher said if this is a “mega-drought” Arizona could have another 10-15 years of these arid conditions, maybe even more years than 15. He said everyone has been careful with water since the early 2000s but it was clear that Arizona was in a serious drought by 2007.

“In 2007, the idea that we wouldn’t have enough water to get to 2030, still wasn’t on the radar screen,” Betcher said. “Then we’ve had some of the worst hydrology. We’ve had a couple of the worst years on record. There will be water if you can pay for it. Sometimes if you have 5 percent of a real expensive supply, maybe you can blend that into your rates and it becomes affordable.”

Betcher said the seriousness of water in Arizona is not overblown. He said if there is a “level one” shortage, there will not be a loss of water to the higher-priority users like cities.

“They won’t lose a drop of water. Their cost will go up because there will be fewer units delivered to CAP to recover their costs but there is no loss of water supplies. I spend 1 to 2 percent of my personal budget on my water. A farmer is at 25 to 30 percent of his budget in water costs,” Betcher said.

He said water users near the rivers do not have restrictions under the DCP because they are higher-priority users. The crisis only impacts the ag water users in the interior of the state.

“One man’s crisis is another man’s concern,” said Betcher. “The concern with the cities is once you get to a shortage, will it continue to accelerate and get worse? Then they will get hit with loss of water. They are trying to do everything they can to protect themselves. It would be bad for the state if that happens.”

He said Pinal County is a great place to grow crops, if you have the water to do it. On average, Pinal County farmers can get three crops harvested in a year, while most farmers in the nation only get one.

He said with water cuts that are expected to hit agriculture, farmers stand to lose income.

“If they stay in business, they’re still going to buy less. Whatever entities gain their economic survival from agriculture, those will end up shrinking,” he said.

An additional problem for farmers, who let fields go fallow, is dust maintenance. Growers are required to take care of their fields by law even if they’re not growing a crop, spending money to control dust while not getting any income from the fields means added expense for farmers.

“If you get the big dust storm coming through, you’re going to have more land exposed to that because it’s not going to have crops on it,” Betcher said.

U.S. Rep. Tom O'Halleran
U.S. Rep. Tom O'Halleran

By Congressman Tom O’Halleran

There is nothing more important to the future of our state and the entire southwest region of our country than our access to water. I have spent most of my time in public service, as a state legislator, concerned citizen and community leader, and now in the United States House of Representatives, working extensively on Arizona water issues. I understand just how important this resource is to Arizona.

For years, Arizona has worked to implement a drought plan that ensures our state continues to have access to water from the Colorado River and other in-state water sources, while protecting the health of our waterways and national parks and forests. The outcomes of this work must honor our settlement agreements with Native American tribes and nations and ensure the rights of private property owners are protected. The decades-long drought Arizona is facing and the realities of climate change have jeopardized the long-term accessibility of our water and increased the fervency of getting a plan in place.

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Contingency plan bites into Pinal County agriculture

During my time in the Arizona Legislature, I spent years working with Republicans and Democrats alike to create Arizona’s first-ever conservation, drought and statewide water management plans. I led these efforts, and my legislation to develop and implement these critical plans was passed with broad, bipartisan support.

Today, the recent passage of the Drought Contingency Plan expands on my work. The interstate plan is an important step, and I am pleased with the outcome. My staff and I have worked closely with tribal, local, state, and federal stakeholders throughout the entire process, and we must continue to work together to ensure this plan works for everyone in the state.

Now, as a member of the House of Representatives, I have continued to make protecting our state’s water resources a priority. Two different efforts to jeopardize our watersheds in Northern Arizona were turned back in the last two years.

The first, a $23 million cut to the Upper Colorado River Basin Fund, would have impacted management programs and research that protects the long-term health of the Grand Canyon watershed and management of water supplies on the Colorado River. The second attack on our water came with the threat that the Administration would lift a ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon watershed. Uranium mining in the region would have a disastrous impact on our natural resources in an area that is still coping with the toxic legacy of abandoned uranium mines from World War II. I worked alongside then-Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva to prevent this ban from being lifted.

In addition to water conservation and sustainability across the state, there are communities in the most rural parts of the First Congressional District who are facing a completely different water issue. Rural and tribal communities often lack water infrastructure, leaving families without safe, clean drinking water. We were successful in passing legislation in the past year to allow the White Mountain Apache Tribe to use available funds to build a water delivery system that provides communities throughout the region with clean water. There are still communities that are facing this problem, and I will continue working to fund these critical infrastructure projects.

There will not be a shortage of water issues that will need to be addressed in the coming years, but it is imperative that we start those discussions sooner than later. Our children and grandchildren are relying on us to take action to ensure our state remains competitive and our economy thrives. We have a great deal of work ahead of us, but I am confident that we can work together to serve the needs of our communities today, and into the future.

Tom O’Halleran is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Arizona’s District 1. A Democrat, he lives in the Village of Oak Creek.

This column appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

Global Water has its own wells and is confident in Maricopa's sustainability. Photo by Jim Headley

Maricopa’s future looks solid because of water.

Jake Lenderking

“Global Water has a really great supply,” said Jake Lenderking, Global Water Resources’ director of Water Resources. “They have a designation of an assured supply for our service area and for growth in our service area.”

Lenderking said the company has solid groundwater and recycled water storage. Because Maricopa is a relatively new city, Global has been able to design a unique and efficient water delivery and sewer system.

The model is called Total Water Management.

“They were able to build this in from day one in new developments. It is essentially the reuse,” he said. “We look at water as in integrated resource. We’re not just saying that we’re a water utility. We are a water utility, we are a wastewater utility and we’re a recycled water utility.”

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Lenderking said an old water utility may serve a half-acre foot of per connection. With Total Water Management, Global was able to go into Maricopa with new plumbing codes that allows for 1.6 gallon per flush toilets and other water saving measures.

“All of this is pretty much throughout Maricopa,” Lenderking said. “So, we won’t be at 0.5; we will be at less. We also use recycled water everywhere we can. It actually reduces our reliance on our source water.”

“The sustainable path is ground water and recycled water for quite a long time,” he said.

Lenderking said in Arizona there is a program called the Assured Water Supply Program and the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

“We have the right to pump the groundwater beneath us. To say that it is there for 100 years, we had to actually prove through groundwater modeling that it exists. That water is there.”

“As a landowner or certain water utilities, like us,” Lenderking said, “you have to prove to the Department of Water Resources that you have a 100-year assured supply. When you prove that, you get a certificate or like here in Maricopa we went and got a designation under the utilities and the landowner doesn’t have to prove it. We have it for our whole service area that we have 100 years of assured supply.”

He said this means Global Water can serve an adequate amount of water to Maricopa, year after year for 100 years.

The Department of Water Resources has tested Global Water’s physical ability to deliver water, legal ability, continuous water supply availability, water quality, consistency, their management plan and financial capabilities.

“We have the right to pump the groundwater beneath us. To say that it is there for 100 years, we had to actually prove through groundwater modeling that it exists. That water is there,” he said.

Lenderking said even though the state looks at a 100-year supply, the system works like a permit and companies like Global Water has to re-prove their models to the state.

He said they have proved up 22,914-acre feet of water and “we use a little less that 7,000-acre feet per year here in Maricopa. We have over three times what we use today to grow on and then than number, 22,914 to use year after year for 100 years. We have a very good and sustainable water supply,” said Lenderking.

He said there are a series of water basins in the area. Maricopa sits over the Maricopa/Stanfield Sub-Basin. Next door to the east is the Eloy Sub-Basin near Eloy, Casa Grande and Florence. Often the two sub-basins are paired because they are hydrologically connected.

“Our (sub-basin) is huge and vast. There are millions and millions of acre feet of water in storage,” Lenderking said.

He said the natural and artificial recharge of the two sub-basins does not stack up to the amount of water being taken out of the aquifers annually.

“We have agricultural, dairies, municipal use and some industrial use all having straws in that aquifer,” Lenderking said.

With a 512,000-acre foot reduction possible in Arizona under the DCP, municipal supplies like Global Water won’t be seriously impacted. Most cuts will come to the Ag industry when DCP is implemented.

“There are people who worked on DCP every day for the past couple of years,” Lenderking said. “There’s that many details. Right now, the irrigation districts do pump quite a bit of groundwater. That’s going to increase because of surface water reduction. How much of that makes sense for them? It’s up to them and they’re working with that. They are grappling with what is the right number.”

Lenderking said adding groundwater to the irrigation system costs more money, so it has an upfront cost to the irrigation district.

“Then you have a what do you want to do situation. Do you want to pump all the water out of the aquifer in 60 years or do you want to save some for 200 years?” Lenderking said.

He said he is concerned about how much water will be pumped out of the aquifer looking at a long term usage but he said he has no concern about what their pumping right now.

“We’re actually in a really nice place here in Maricopa, geographically on the aquifer. With the Gila Indian River community to the north and virtually no ground water uses and the Ak-Chin Indian Community around us and to the south.”

He said the two Native American communities will still be importing Colorado River surface water and not pumping groundwater, protecting the aquifer.

“Between the two, we don’t have a lot of groundwater mining right here,” Lenderking said.

He said much more groundwater is being mined south of the Ak-Chin Community by ag producers.

“We should try to get our ducks in a row. We know we have water here, but people have been fighting about it. It has created some negative economic development issues.”

Lenderking said Maricopa will be able to handle quite a bit of growth based on the water supply.

“There will be long-term water planning projects that will continue to augment water supplies,” he said. “There are provisions for that written into laws and treaties with Mexico.”

Population estimates projecting the growth of Maricopa range from 161,000 to 300,000 by the year 2050.

“We are using about a third of what our designated supply has in it. We’re 51,000 now in Maricopa. It almost pairs perfectly with the population growing by three times and three times the water use. That is a good fit. We will be renewing that designation, assured supply and adding to it as needed,” Lenderking said.

Water is an important issue in Arizona.

“I think there is an article in a national paper every other week. There’s an article in our papers at least every week. In Arizona probably, everyday there’s an article about drought or shortage. I think it has a pretty negative impact. We should try to get our ducks in a row. We know we have water here, but people have been fighting about it. It has created some negative economic development issues,” Lenderking said.


Global Water CEO Ron Fleming talks about the state's Drought Contingency Plan at a MEDA meeting. Photo by Jim Headley

“It’s a little complicated. It’s a little chaotic right now, but it’s not a crisis.”

Watch for InMaricopa’s series on the Drought Contingency Plan and Maricopa sustainability starting March 1.

Ron Fleming, Global Water Resources president and CEO, addressed the members of the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance (MEDA) about the state’s Drought Contingency Plan on Wednesday. Fleming told the MEDA membership, “It’s just complicated, and there’s a lot going on. I haven’t checked my phone in two hours – probably something has changed.”

Fleming said his main message is, “sometimes a good crisis is needed to cause change.”

He said it is time to find the right balance in Pinal County to work together and address the water issues of the day.

The Colorado River provides water to approximately 40 million people in seven states and in Mexico. The water is provided to about 4 million acres of farm land.

“However, over the last 20 years of drought, it has had a significant impact on water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell,” Fleming said. “We are sitting here today with a historic low (water level) in Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam. That is projected to continue to decline.”

He said most people saw this trend coming many years ago and began planning for this event.

“That’s where the talks began that turned into the common name of DCP, Drought Contingency Planning,” he said.

Fleming explained how different tiers of water levels will affect the amount of water that is cut back to Arizona.

Beginning in 2020, the DCP engages when Lake Mead hits a level below 1,090 Mean Sea Level (MSL). At that point, called Tier 0, 192,000 acre feet that was going to Arizona is cut back. Tier 1 engages at 1,075 MSL and an additional 320,000 acre feet is cut.

The Colorado River is currently at 1,085 MSL.

If the water continues to fall in Lake Mead, virtually all water to entities besides Native American reservations would be stopped from flowing out of the Colorado. Even the reservations could lose some water flows in the event the levels dive too low.

“The Colorado River supply comes into Pinal County primarily for agricultural purposes. [It] was also planned to phase out by 2030,” Fleming said. “That is for different reasons and historic agreements. That was always the plan. What’s happening now under DCP and the drought conditions is that is accelerating. It is hitting immediately; more than 10 years earlier than they otherwise were able to hopefully adapt to that reality.”

He said DCP is intended to bring about larger cutbacks on a shorter timetable.

“So that we can protect Lake Mead and keep that reservoir from hitting those shortage declaration levels,” Fleming told the MEDA members.

He said the Tier 0 level on Lake Mead is already in effect.

“DCP is not intended to keep us from hitting Tier 1,” he said. “The belief is Tier 1 is going to be hit anyway. It’s really about keeping us from hitting Tier 2 and Tier 3, where a lot more dramatic reductions start to occur.”

Fleming said the Bureau of Reclamation believes there is a better than 50 percent chance that Lake Mead will hit the Tier 1 trigger as early as 2020.

“When we hit the Tier 1 reduction, it fully eliminates the agricultural pull that primarily comes into Pinal County,” Fleming said.

He said in addition to ag losing all its water, Tier 1 cuts will also start to eliminate some of the NIA (Non-Indian Agricultural) Priority Water.

“Basically, cities and tribes have been buying some of that NIA water. They do have a lot of capital dollars invested. They take that NIA water and put it to use. There are real immediate implications to cities and tribes, not just agriculture.”

Fleming explained that Arizona has junior rights to allocations of Colorado River water.

“If we hit those drought declaration levels, what is prescribed as reductions to Arizona is immediate and significant,” Fleming said. “We are not trying to pretend that we are in a different boat than the ag community. We are all in this boat together and we have to figure it out together. They are the first ones to take this most significant impact of what is going on.”

It will quickly become unlikely that any Colorado River water will be used for agriculture outside of the reservations.

“There is some mitigation being done in DCP for three years. They found a way to continue to supply around 100,000 acre feet per year, or about a quarter to a third of what they’re used to for the next three years,” Fleming said. “However, in 2023 to 2025 the mitigation changes. In the NIA pool will go from about 50 to 100 percent mitigation, depending on lake levels. That’s when you start seeing our cities’ NIA water get cut back more.

“Importantly, there is no more CAP (Central Arizona Project) ag mitigation. All renewable water supplies coming into central Arizona for agricultural (use) is gone.”

Instead of giving the ag industry surface water from the Colorado, the state, CAP and the federal government will create funding to help irrigators redevelop ground water pumping systems, according to Fleming.

Primarily, funds will be used to rehabilitate older ground water pumping wells and infrastructure that “they haven’t had to use because of the CAP water coming into the area.”

He said they will be rebuilding existing wells, drilling new wells and working on canals.

“That will result in about 70,000 acre feet per year of more groundwater pumping in the area to make up for the loss in the CAP supply,” said Fleming.

He said once the drought gets to 2026, “there is no more mitigation at all for any groups and, if we get to a Tier 3 shortage before 2026, all the mitigation stops.”

He added, “Increased groundwater pumping is not ideal. It’s just not – there’s just no way to get around it.”

Fleming said there will not likely be new groundwater entitlements issued anytime “in the near future.” This will curb development outside of established service areas, like the area served by Global Water Resources. Global Water has an assured 100-year water supply in their service area that allows them to pump much more water that what their system is currently using. This means growth can continue in Maricopa and the area served by Global Water.

“We think what will happen, ultimately, is the assured water supply holders will get some form of a haircut to make sure that our groundwater aquifer is not going to be over-mined and the assured water supply program can be put back into effect in some way. But that is to be determined,” Fleming said.

Ron Fleming, CEO of Global Water, talks about water supply with Maricopa City Council. Photo by Jim Headley

“The Pinal County water management system is broken. It’s been broken for two-and-a-half years.” — Ron Fleming, Global Water

Global Water Resources CEO Ron Fleming said the lack and expense of water will someday seriously limit growth in Arizona.

He said the water issue is already hindering growth in some parts of Pinal County.

In speaking before the Maricopa City Council on Tuesday during a work session, Fleming said he doesn’t see the water situation as a crisis because outside water can be purchased if local reserves aren’t enough. He did admit that buying water will be expensive.

“Water, it’s a very complicated topic right now. There’s a lot of moving parts,” Fleming said. “It is important to know that smart water management that we have put into place in this city is more than adequate right now.”

Global Water is the main water utility in Maricopa.

He said smart meters and reuse of recycle water is vital to Pinal County’s future.

“The Pinal County water management system is broken. It’s been broken for two-and-a-half years,” Fleming said. “It’s been a year since the Department of Water Resources has met the stakeholders and talked about how we work together to fix that broken water supply program.”

He said the good news is that the City of Maricopa has wells, and growth can occur.

However, in other parts of the county the lack of quality water is already impacting growth opportunities, but he didn’t say what areas are impacted.

Arizona has launched a Drought Contingency Proposal (DCP) program with the federal government. Fleming said the DCP will likely result in more underground pumping in Pinal County as less water will be taken out of the Colorado River.

“Groundwater is the foundation for growth in Pinal County for the foreseeable future,” Fleming said. “What we need to do is truly understand the groundwater aquifers in the county, so that we can properly establish that foundation that the state can build from. We need to try and determine what adaptation and mitigation strategies are necessary to address a longer-term issue.”

He said Global Water is using the state’s water model as a guide, but the company wants to use it in different ways to possibly find better solutions.

“People are surprised to learn that there isn’t a regional water plan. It is up to the independent city,” he said, adding the state does regulate water but they don’t necessarily solve issues that arise.

He said it makes sense that cities in this area work together to make a more regional resource plan.

Jake Lenderking, Global Water’s director of water resources, told the city council water resources are adequate currently in Maricopa. He went through a PowerPoint presentation showing water demand and expectations for the future.

He said the annual water that flows into the Colorado River system is being directly impacted by the drought that has been going on for decades.

The shortages mean less water is available for everything including cities and agriculture.

“The good news is … we’re in a good place,” Fleming said after the presentation. “We won’t see any of these issues. The issue is long-term. The things we talked about here today could prevent growth at some point. Economic development, job loss, tax revenues. When we step out from the city of Maricopa, that situation is already occurring in some parts of Pinal County.”

He said the state of Arizona is trying to ensure “we get the maximum benefit of the water resources that we have available.”

He said this also impacts the cost of water and makes it rise “fairly rapid.”

“What DCP is about is protecting the Colorado River and Lake Mead,” he said.

Fleming said once Lake Mead hits the maximum drought line, there are “immediate mandatory restrictions” put into place on the state’s ability to take water is seriously impacted. The DCP is to help prevent Lake Mead from hitting the drought line, so deep restrictions don’t occur.

Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution Jan. 9 to urge the state Legislature “to provide sufficient funds to Pinal Agricultural Enterprises to access the groundwater necessary to allow the Pinal County agricultural economy to continue when Colorado River water is limited.”

“I don’t believe that we are going to get to a place in the local community or in the greater state where it significantly inhibits our ability to grow and do business,” Fleming said. “It’s just going to cost more, take longer and get more complicated, but we will solve this.”

He said the cheapest water resource available is “what we have today.” He said everyone needs to protect, stretch, conserve and get maximum benefit from current supply before “we have to go after other resources.”

He added, “But that day will come … It won’t limit the growth here, but we need to know that it will come with additional costs. The resources are out there. It will just cost more and take more time to put it into place when that day comes.”

City councilman Marvin Brown has been concerned about water for decades. He questioned Fleming’s optimism about the future of water in Arizona. Many, including Brown, believe the state’s water resources will be in serious shape by 2026.

“2026 will happen,” Brown said.

Fleming said that the future of water is not a crisis yet, but it is also not “rosy.” He said the solution is “to import water from somewhere else.”

“We are blessed in Pinal County with very large high quality underground aquifers. The situation that has developed is through the state’s ensured water supply program, which is based on a regulatory construct and their projections of huge demand in this area,” Fleming said, adding that 95 percent of water pumping is for agriculture.

He said he believes, in the future, ag producers will likely have to give up some of their water resources.

“There is a lot of opportunity to do more with the resources that we are blessed with here. I think Pinal County can handle a significant amount of growth,” he said.

Fleming told the city council Global Water’s board of directors just approved $8 million for infrastructure improvements in Maricopa. He said the funds will be used for well, distribution and pipeline improvements.

“What we’re going to focus on primarily are pipeline projects,” Fleming said. “We need to do some new pipeline extensions that further connect our distribution grid.”

He said it will make pressure and flow much better across their pipeline system, especially with the growth of Maricopa and across the farther reaches of this network.

He said the expansion of the Copper Sky area will mean more water will be needed in the city as housing for 3,000 additional residents will be added. Global Water will also be fixing some of the older parts of their pipeline system.

Another project on the table is Global Water’s first aquifer recharge facility.

“We will be taking the excess recycled water and recharging it into the underground aquifer,” he said, adding this is the second recharge facility in Pinal County.

The facility will eliminate all present water discharge into the Santa Rosa Wash.

“We reused the recycled water for all outdoor common area irrigation,” he said. “However, in winter months, there is more supply than there is demand.”

Empty tank in the wastewater expansion project during a tour at Global Water. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Global Water Resources showed off its not-yet-commissioned wastewater expansion project April 2, and it became an opportunity to update customers on how Maricopa’s primary water utility is trying to adapt to the city’s growth.

“The evidence is in the data, so for last year we did 4.4 percent meter connection count growth, which is the most we saw in any year since before the great recession, [since 2007]. The permit data suggests it’s actually going to accelerate. Last year, the City of Maricopa had the highest year-over-year permit growth rate of any submarket in metro Phoenix. They did about 60 percent more permits than they did in 2016, and in 2016 they did 60-70 percent better than they did in 2015. Obviously, permits are the leading indicator to new homes being built and our meters going in the ground.” – Ron Fleming, Global Water president

Global Water Maricopa Data:

  • 19,000 metered locations
  • 250 miles of water pipeline
  • 208 miles of gravity sewer pipeline
  • 2,000+ fire hydrants

The caveat is no water supply, especially in Arizona, is an unending resource. While Global Water says its tactics are saving money and conserving water, and a large portion of its relatively high base water rates are attributed to wastewater costs, fresh water has no guarantee in the distant future.

“It’s necessary to get as much from the local resources as possible, to stretch them as much as you can, before you have to go out and bring in other water supplies. Ultimately, that day will come, just like it will for anybody anywhere. It’s a mathematical equation about how much water exists and how much population or growth that water then meet the needs of. We have to think of ways we can supplement the aquifer. Because of the way we’re managing the aquifer here, doing the recyclable program and conservation program, we just have that inflection point a lot farther in the distance than a lot of communities are looking at.” – Fleming

The wastewater reclamation facility is expected to be commissioned at the beginning of May.

Water distribution center in Rancho Mirage. Photo by Mason Callejas

The growth in western Maricopa, mostly along John Wayne Parkway, has put a lot of sewage pressure on the sanitary lift station at Rancho El Dorado. The company built a new, modular lift station to divert half of that wastewater to a gravity trunk line at Smith-Enke and Porter roads, from which it is conveyed to the plant.

“The iFAS system is a different biological process than we’ve seen here, continuous nonstop flow, less equipment, less overall operations and equipment. It will allow us in the future to build smaller, incremental expansions here. At the facility there is no odor. If in the event that we have that situation, we get a major upset, we have significant odor-control systems that are in place. That was all required and permitted through ADEQ.” – Jason Thuneman, vice president of project management

Global Water Maricopa Data:

  • Rancho El Dorado lift station at 90 percent capacity
  • 50 percent of flows from RED lift station diverted to new facility
  • 5 year process to create expansion facility

As part of its three-year, $33 million project, Global Water also invested in a new well in Rancho Mirage. The well is intended to provide additional water into the system, especially when a major line break occurs, to lessen the impact of water fluctuations.

“Based on its location, it will provide a lot of benefits to the overall system. We haven’t been able to wholly commission and operate continuously that facility in the past, and that’s because there wasn’t enough groundwater supply coming into those tanks … to have it active all of the time. With this new well we’ll be able to do that, which significantly extends the water capacity for the overall city.” – Fleming

Global Water Maricopa Data:

  • New well is meant to provide 2,000 additional gallons per minute of “fresh” water, increasing raw water production 20 percent
  • In the past 24 months, Global Water has had three “major” line failures
  • 100 percent of fresh water in Global Water’s system is groundwater

Reclamation and recycling is a large part of the process, as any Maricopa resident can attest. Local lakes and water features are fed with nonpotable, reclaimed water. The system filters solids from the wastewater, resulting in biosolvents that are dried and, via an ADEQ permit, are sent to a local farmer, who uses it as fertilizer.

“All the waste that’s conveyed to the centralized reclamation facility we try to reuse … The only waste product is a single, 20-yard bin where solids are screened out at the beginning of the process.” – Fleming

Global Water Maricopa Data:

  • Goal is re-use 80 percent of Maricopa wastewater to reduce the demand on potable water
  • Purple pipe (reclaimed water) reduced the demand on the aquifer by about 30 percent.

This story appears in May issue of InMaricopa.


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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa City Council voted Oct. 3 to approve payment of a third-installment for irrigation water at Copper Sky.

The $191,750 credit will supply the city’s recreation complex with 500 acre-feet, or almost 163 million gallons, of non-potable water to help keep fields and landscaping green around Copper Sky.

Interim Parks Director Fred Gray said, though he wasn’t around in 2013 when the first agreement was made, he understands that at the time, Global Water lacked the infrastructure or supply to support their need.

Gila River Water Storage LLC, being more established, agreed to step in and provide the city 1,500 acre-feet, which would last until 2015 when the second agreement was made.

According to the agreement, an initial 1,500 acre-feet would be supplied for the first year, with an additional 500 acre-feet coming each year thereafter. The contract, which is set to expire in 2020, set the initial price at $347 per acre-foot, and then increases that number by roughly $20 dollars a year until that expiration date.

When the contract does expire, the city will have paid out just over $1.5 million to Gila River.

At that point, Gray said, the city should open up the bidding process to potentially allow Global Water to gain the business.

“My guess, based on my experience with municipal governments, is that we would be required to look at other options at that point, based on the amount of money that we would be spending,” Gray said.

Being a six-year contract, he added, the city should most likely start looking at those options sometime in the fifth year – 2019.

“If I were going to be the long-term guy, that’s what I would recommend,” Gray said.

Global Water was recently granted a zoning change and permit to move forward with a plant expansion they say will allow them to supply another potential 11,000 customers. It is, however, unclear at this point if the utility plans to seek out the city’s business when the contract does expire.

New facility at TFID. Photo by Michelle Chance

An area water utility board passed a 2017-18 budget after struggling for weeks to find a way to account for costs associated with recent improvements.

The Thunderbird Farms Water Improvement District Board passed the balanced budget Thursday.

After whittling down non-crucial costs associated with payroll, water treatment, office supplies and building maintenance, the board presented its third draft of the budget, which was in part balanced by a $5 “system upgrade surcharge.”

The charge, which has a 12-month life span, is estimated to bring in an extra $33,000 in revenue, more than half of which will go to service debt accrued as a result of improvements.

In all, the improvement project came in with around a $5 million price tag, half of which was paid with debt-free grants, leaving around $2.6 million to be paid out of the district’s budget in the future.

The Thursday meeting brought with it an air of cooperation and civility that had been lacking in previous meetings.

Moving forward, several attendees raised concerns about addressing the need for more scheduled maintenance instead of waiting for simple problems to become larger, more costly problems.

Board Chairman Patrick Lacey acknowledge planned maintenance is on the district’s agenda. Most of the issues, however, were inherited, he said.

“There’s a lot of things that should have been done,” Lacey said. “I’m a new guy on the block, and some of it’s been on my watch, but this has been pretty much my entire time here, is dealing with this project [sic].”

Once caught up with repairs, Lacey said, they will address valves and other items that are starting to show signs of stress but have not yet caused significant issues.

“It’s boiling streets we’re fighting right now,” Lacey Said. “We’re chasing leaks.”

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New facility at TFID. Photo by Michelle Chance

Twenty customers of a local water district packed themselves into a conference room Thursday afternoon to hear an update on the utility’s plans to shrink its budget which had nearly doubled from the previous year.

“It pains my heart to expose that much risk to the community.” Engineer Nathan Meacham

The Thunderbird Farms Improvement District Governing Board announced plans at the meeting to trim the bloated 2017-18 budget by nearly $300,000, from $844,305 to $562,698.

Customers, who were angered during a June meeting by the district’s attempt to vote through a 11.52 percent tax levy to cover costs praised the district for its efforts to shrink the budget.

The board was successful in approving a $15 fee increase at the same meeting last month, despite the tax hike failing.

That fee, however, isn’t enough to cover expenses for the district, which recently constructed a new water treatment facility and office building.

The treatment facility was built as a result of the district being hit with multiple violation notices from county and state agencies for not meeting water regulations.

Board Chairman Patrick Lacey said in June the new facility was necessary for the district to stay in compliance.

District engineer Nathan Mecham led the budget modification discussion Thursday. Mecham recommended reductions to some of the most expensive line items, including repairs to ageing service lines and a reserve fund for maintenance on its three wells.

The reduced budget recommendations produced a wave of reconciliation from disgruntled customers, who began making cooperative recommendations of their own.

Though the changes eased tensions between the district and its customers, they have created unease with its engineer.

“It pains my heart to expose that much risk to the community,” Mecham said.

The district did propose increases in a few of its line items, however.

The most controversial was an increase in funds to pay for an additional office assistant, an expense many customers said the district could do without.

When the subject of another possible tax levy came up in discussions, customer Scott Crawford addressed the board with a warning.

“Live within your means,” Crawford said. “If you want [the tax] to go up, then you’re going to have another mutiny on your hands.”

Despite the district’s overall effort to better manage the budget, the newest draft still leaves a negative balance of $120,390.

The board will meet July 20 at 6 p.m. to continue budget modification discussions, including finding alternative resources of revenue.

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Expenses are rising for TFID, which completed construction on a new water treatment system this year. Photo by Michelle Chance

A rural domestic water district will hold a public meeting regarding a hotly contested budget increase Thursday afternoon.

The Thunderbird Farms Improvement District Governing Board will meet July 13 at 4 p.m. inside the district office located at 10675 N. Brewer Road.

According to its meeting agenda, “the board will meet to discuss changes to the district’s 2017-18 budget in order to reduce the overall budget.”

The proposed maintenance and operation budget is a $434,597 increase to $844,305 – nearly doubling the amount from the previous year. The district’s board attributed the sharp rise in cost to its new, “state-of-the-art” water treatment facility, office and related operation costs.

The district and its customers are also paying back a consolidated USDA loan.

To cover budget expenses, the district met in June to vote through a $15 monthly fee increase and an 11.52 percent tax levy on customers’ limited property values.

Board members and district employees were met with sharp protest at the meeting, where many customers demanded the district reconsider its budget.

In emotional and often angry pleas to the district, water customers said many would be left homeless with the proposed tax increases because they would not be able to afford their water bills.

After nearly three hours of public comment and mutual debate between customers and district personnel, the board approved the fee increase, but failed to pass the tax levy.

It tabled the vote on its proposed budget, deciding later to meet Thursday to re-work figures in an attempt to lower the amount.

The board will not take a vote on the budget Thursday night, according to the district’s agenda. 

Maricopa City Council will hold a public hearing in August on the rezoning request for a parcel of land to allow a local water utility to expand.

In the past month, Global Water has received permits for a 1,200-foot wall and for grading and draining as part of the expansion project.

During the planned regular session of the council’s meeting on Aug. 1, there will be a public hearing and a subsequent vote on the approval of a zoning variance to allow for Global Water to expand its water reclamation operations, according to City Manager Gregory Rose’s weekly report.

Global Water General Manager Jon Corwin said the expansion is in response to Maricopa’s projected residential and commercial growth.

“The city is growing quite a bit,” Corwin said. “There’s new homes, and the city is also trying to attract some more commercial clients, so we’re expanding our facility to accommodate so the city can grow as fast as it can.”

Global Water currently serves around 18,500 homes and businesses. The expansion will allow for the plant to process 60 percent more wastewater, he said. That’s another 11,000 possible connections.

Corwin said it’s important to be able to handle the anticipated influx of wastewater. But, he said, it’s about continuing to be good stewards of such a precious resource.

“We treat the sewage and then turn it into Class A Plus recycled water and send that back out into the community to reduce the amount of water we have to pump out of the ground,” Corwin said.

The reclamation program feeds their “purple pipe” or recycled water redistribution program which helps keep the grass green and the small local lakes full.

The non-potable water system is safe for irrigation and feeding water features like ponds and fountains, but is unfit for human consumption.

The expansion will occur at Global Water’s main processing facility located to the northeast of Rancho El Dorado.

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Water customers crowded into the Thunderbird Farms Improvement District board meeting Thursday. Photo by Michelle Chance

Customers of a rural water district were successful in striking down a tax levy proposed by its local board Thursday night.

The Thunderbird Farms Improvement District Governing Board failed to pass an 11.52 percent tax increase after hearing from domestic water clients, angered over the tax that many said could push residents out of their homes – and the water district out of business.

Chairman Patrick Lacey motioned to approve the tax, but the proposed levy died after board members Martha Courtney-Boblitt and Beverly Smith did not second Lacey’s motion.

The result was met with applause from the few dozen customers who packed the district’s conference room for the duration of the three-hour meeting. Thunderbird Farms is in an unincorporated area south of Maricopa.

The three-panel board was able to approve, however, a $15 rate increase of its basic monthly fees. It also decided to table its proposed 2017-18 budget for its next meeting on July 20.

As part of policy, all TFID board members live in the district.

The budget itself was the center of contention for customers. During the hearing’s public comment, many residents questioned budget line items that were published in a legal notice within a local newspaper on May 30 and June 6.

Customer Scott Crawford urged the board to reconsider. He said current figures would transform the water district into one nobody could afford.

“How do you justify $500,000 increase operation and maintenance in this thing? You can’t justify it to these people and if this goes through I’m telling you, you might get locked out of this place down the road because it’s not going to happen,” Crawford said.

In November, district staff moved into a new office building that also houses a new water treatment plant they said is state-compliant.

“We do what needs to be done to provide safe water within the confines of state laws that apply here,” said Jeffrey Crocket, the water district’s attorney.

The construction of the office and treatment plant were part of a $5 million project district officials said were necessary to become compliant. The project also resulted in the creation of a third water tank, dry waste pond and generator.

The project transformed the water district from a small operation to what officials deem as state-of-the art.

Years prior, the district went under a consent order after its arsenic and nitrate levels did not meet increasing water safety standards by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

Lacey said the district’s first two “low-cost” project proposals were denied by ADEQ before its current project was eventually approved.

“I will point out that the ADEQ has been very patient with us,” Lacey said. “They could have been fining us for this entire period,” but because the district showed they were making progress toward meeting standards, Lacey said the district got a pass.

Now with the project completed, Lacey said the district is in “total compliance.”

While district employees are managing its new system, they are also budgeting for anticipated repairs to its ageing, 35-year-old waterlines. In a moment of unity, around 10 customers said they would volunteer in various capacities at the district, ranging from office help to waterline repair, in attempts to drive down costs.

The room that overflowed with customers Thursday night was an illustration of other concerns many said were derived from a lack of communication and transparency from the district.

Customers complained public meetings occur on weekday mornings when many of them are at work and unable to attend.

Lacey said the taxation hearing was changed to 6 p.m. Thursday to allow for better customer attendance. The board agreed to discuss permanently changing their public meeting times to the evening after the outcry from their customers.

Even with the rise in domestic water costs, the board and its customers did appear to agree on one thing: They said staying an independent district was in everybody’s best interest.

Lacey said Global Water, the private company that services incorporated Maricopa, offered to buy the rural district out three years ago, and he said he expects the company to attempt it again. 

The large and often hostile crowd had the presence of Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. Photo by Michelle Chance

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Expenses are rising for TFID, which completed construction on a new water treatment system this year. Photo by Michelle Chance

The price for domestic water could go up for residents living in Thunderbird Farms.

The Thunderbird Farms Improvement District Board will propose tax and fee increases to its customers during a public hearing Thursday at 6 p.m. inside the district’s office located at 10675 N. Brewer Road.

According to a public notice posted by the district in May, “the district is proposing an increase in secondary property taxes of $469,957 for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.”

District Manager Debra Genantonio said the 11.52 percent increase in the district’s secondary property taxes is on customers’ limited property value amount, and not a tax increase on full cash value.

Customers’ basic monthly fee could also increase.

The district is proposing its base rate to rise from $39.90 to $54.90 per month.  Additionally, an existing USDA bond revenue monthly fee of $22 – coupled with the taxes on the amount of water used each month – could result in customers’ water bills increasing to over $80 per month, according to the proposed fee increase outlined in the public notice.

TFID provides water only, not sewage, and residents are on septic tanks.

District customers are paying back a $2.85 million USDA loan, which funded a new facility that includes office space, a new water treatment system and a 500,000-gallon water tank in addition to its other two large tanks. The district also received a $2.45 million grant for the project.

Genantonio said the new water treatment system went online at the end of March and is in compliance with state and federal standards. The district includes 670 lots that have water capability, with 564 of those being active accounts.

The board will make a presentation to customers Thursday evening, and afterward residents can voice their questions and concerns. The board will take a vote on the proposed increases after its call to the public concludes.


For the third time in as many months one of the main lines maintained by local utility Global Water ruptured Tuesday morning.

The water main located near Province Parkway in the Province neighborhood of Maricopa ruptured around 7:30 a.m. leaving customers temporarily with diminished or no water pressure.

Client Services supervisor Beth Huerta said the main break on Tuesday affected Province homes for about an hour, but the issue was quickly resolved.

“We got it under control within 30 to 45 minutes,” Huerta said. “Right now, we have it isolated so it’s not affecting any homes.”

Global Water General Manager Jon Corwin said the cause of the rupture is unknown at this point and crews are still working to determine the culprit.

Past water main ruptures have been attributed to a number of factors including the geological shifting of earth around the pipes and substandard construction.

Global Water inherited the infrastructure when they acquired their predecessor companies in 2011. However most of the system was installed shortly after the city was incorporated in 2003, meaning most of the pipes are likely 12 or more years old.