water everywhere, or not?
by Ivan Finley
former Sedona Mayor
have recently been advised by the Arizona Water Company (AWC)
and the city of Sedona to go to extraordinary means to conserve
water. Are we the users responsible for the cause of this? Not
This last alert was caused by the AWC’s own negligence
of not keeping up with the growth of Sedona. They do not have
enough wells. They do not have enough storage capacity. They do
not have pumps capable of drawing more water from the aquifer.
Do we have enough water under Sedona? According to every hydrological
study of the area, the answer is “YES.”
AWC has a history of problems with supplying us with
water. If a well goes down in a long hot-spell, they will have
a problem again. This has happened before. When the Oak Creek
Water Company had a well go down a few years ago, the AWC had
a difficult time helping them with water.
AWC also has a history of not cooperating with the city
• For years
they would not agree to a franchise agreement.
• They refused to
partner with the city on a hydrological study.
• We still have areas
with inadequate mains.
• Areas still have
insufficient pressure to fire hydrants.
• Do they still have
concrete-asbestos water lines? They used to.
• They allowed 120,000
gallons of drilling fluid into Oak Creek.
• One of their managers
was charged by AZ Dept. of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) for this.
They should be ahead of this issue. They have a record
of the growth of this community (about 3.5% a year average). They
hooked up an average of 120 new customers a year for a 10-year
period (1983 through 1993), and they have their records since.
We know that Sedona will have about 7,000 new residents in the
future. Why is this so difficult to plan for?
Is there a solution? I think so.
The city of Sedona should buy both water companies and
set up a city-owned utility. Can they afford it? The last figures
I saw was that AWC could be purchased and paid for out of the
net profits made by AWC. This would give the city control of both
the water distribution systems and the wastewater treatment facility.
Then maybe we could review the possibility of charging sewer rates
on water usage, like we promised many years ago.
Is Sedona the only city in the area with water problems?
Absolutely not. The Camp Verde area has wells with high levels
of arsenic. At the present time, 50 parts per billion is the allowable
limit, but that is being changed. In 2000, the AWC in Sedona tested
10 ppb of arsenic. Bridgeport has had serious water problems for
years - wells going dry, having to dig them deeper and deeper.
IS THERE A SOLUTION FOR THE WHOLE VERDE VALLEY?
My suggestion is to get every community in this area
together under one umbrella and create a DOMESTIC WATER IMPROVEMENT
DISTRICT. This would be the driving force to coordinate all the
water delivery systems in its area. The district then could purchase
the existing delivery systems. The district would not have the
power to condemn. A water district is formed the same way as other
districts, they would have to have an elected board of directors.
The first directors would be appointed by the Yavapai
County Supervisors. It would be my recommendation that the Sedona
City Council take the lead to make this happen. We are not the
worst off in the water quantity issue; therefore, it is not as
urgent of an issue as our partner communities face. But it would
show some generous cooperation.
They would have to work with Supervisor Arlo “Chip”
Davis to get the ball rolling. Davis has been instrumental in
water issues since his first election, but has he helped solve
any of his area’s water quantity or quality supply? Now would
be his chance.
The District would also have the power and the authority,
along with the Arizona Department of Water Resources, to finally
do a hydrological study of the area. We have spent too many years
and thousands of dollars and still have not improved the quality
and quantity of our valley’s water supply.
FIX IT NOW OR PAY LATER.
AWC says they have 200 customers that have doubled their
water usage. A recent study, “Water Use Trends in the Southwestern
United States,” by Michael O’Donnell and Jonathan Rademaeker,
U. S. Geological Survey, states: “A significant factor affecting
domestic water use has been an increasing number of single family
homes with fewer members in those households.” Households with
a higher income bracket tend to use more water. It also states
that the cost of water does not appear to affect the quantity
The influx of costlier and larger homes in the city
of Sedona (it appears that those owners have higher incomes) may
be influencing the higher usage. More of these homes have swimming
pools, spas and hot tubs. More misting systems are being seen.
Several articles have appeared lately, accusing the
city of wasting water by spraying it in the air and/or on the
ground. That is not necessarily true. I learned way back in high
school that today’s evaporation is someone else’s rain tomorrow.
We would not have monsoons or rain if it were not for evaporation.
Watering by the wastewater plant is used by evaportranspiration
or incorporated into vegetation. A high percentage is infiltrated
into the soils and returns to the groundwater system.
If the community feels that the city is wasting its
wastewater by spraying, there was a solution offered a few years
back that the nay-sayers and the Forest Service shot down - a
municipal or private 18-hole golf course north of the Sedona Cultural
Park. That would have allowed the city to activate the 12-inch
return line that will never be used unless there is a major customer
or user of treated effluent water somewhere in the city. (So Paul
Chevalier, if you are a golfer or have any influence, go get them,
and for Pete’s sake let’s don’t give that water away. It is a
Should we ignore water conservation methods? Absolutely
not. Should we have a building code that allows for a separate
gray water system to be used to water the outside landscaping
areas? Almost certainly - we could be the leader in this area.
If you agree with anything I have said, please help
pass it along to the City Council and the Yavapai County Supervisors.
If you disagree with what I say, then as always, you are entitled
to your opinion.
P.S. I write this as I sit in my hot tub with the misters