Sustainable water resources focus of Council meeting
Tara Alatorre ~ Staff~ 2/25/2015
CAVE CREEK – Water was the hot topic at Cave Creek’s town council meeting on Feb. 17 after it was presented with a study from the water advisory committee showing major failures resulting in 123 million gallons of wasted drinking water resulting from malfunctions at the water treatment plant.
The water advisory committee presented the council with the strategic initiatives the town should take to ensure sustainable water resources while the entire Southwest faces a major drought. The goal is to keep the water rates the same over the next few years by saving money on utility costs through enrolling in a time-of-use plan with APS, preventing equipment failure, and preventing routine water losses that have happened over the last six years at the town’s water treatment plant.
Currently the water utilities have been operating at a $1.2 million dollar loss each year because of routine water loss, ferric chloride dosages being too high, equipment failure, and inadequate staff. The loss in operational costs at the water plant has been subsidized by the Cave Creek general fund, according to Tony Geiger, a board member of the water committee who presented at the council meeting.
The most pressing matter presented was the backwash recovery system that has been bypassed for over six years causing 123 million gallons of drinking water to be wasted and dumped into the Galloway Wash.
“We are in a severe drought and we are flushing 123 million gallons of drinking water down the wash,” said Geiger to the town council during his presentation.
He explained that instead of water being recaptured at the water treatment plant through the backwash recovery system, it was bypassed for over six years and delivered to the Rancho Manana Golf Course, where it is was pumped to the course ponds and dumped into Galloway Wash. Because Rancho Manana only has the capacity to store and use 94 million gallons of water to irrigate the course, the excess water delivered could not be stored and was wasted.
“This is no fault of Rancho Manana, this is an operation inefficiency at the water treatment plant,” said Geiger.
The town could save $90,000 by recovering the water being wasted at Rancho Manana and recover 10-12 percent of the town’s daily drinking water; also, by utilizing a time of use rate structure through APS, the town could save about 60 percent in electricity costs, said Geiger during the presentation to the council.
“This is in no way to be specific instructions for the staff to take action on, it’s identifying major issues we need to tackle,” Geiger said. “That is money into the town, this is a couple year plan, but it can be done without looting the finance of the town.”
The council unanimously voted to approve up to $30,000 in costs to repair or purchase a new pump for the water treatment plant, shortly after hearing the water advisory board’s findings in hopes to resolve the water being wasted at Rancho Manana as quickly as possible.
“It’s taken about a year of having a new permanent town manager and utilities director to identify the consequence of a willfully ignorant protocol that was followed by the previous administration,” said Vice Mayor Adam Trenk about why he supported the expenditure. “It’s unfortunate that the town is facing a recall when we are just starting to make these repairs.”