The subject of water is trending bigly right now. The Phoenix, Casa Grande, Tucson corridor is within the Sonoran Desert, our economy is founded on development and growth, and that’s not possible without an assured water supply.
This is not a secret. Especially upon investors, speculators, entrepreneurs and lenders.
Recently, a French TV crew came to Casa Grande to talk about the continued viability of municipal water supplies and now, world-class projects like Attesa.
Then the New York Times published a 6000+ word article slanted toward the notion that Arizona is, for all intents and purposes, essentially doomed to become an uninhabitable, arid wasteland.
That sky-is-falling story was followed by news about the City of Gilbert approving funds for a 100-year water lease with the San Carlos Apache Tribe.
Sheesh. Who to believe and what does it all mean?
Attesa believes in looking on the bright side. So, let’s start this blog with our interaction with the people from the country that gave us mayonnaise, the sewing machine and canning.
A production crew from public television station France 2 came to Arizona a few weeks ago, to interview Casa Grande City Manager Larry Rains and Attesa Managing Partner Pat Johnson. The station was doing a segment about water conservation and management, and the impact the drought has had on development in the great American Southwest.
For Larry Rains’ interview the shoot location was the Dave White Municipal Golf Course, where the water necessary to its continued viability is effluent-based Class A + reclaimed water.
The assistant producer who was conducting the interview couldn’t seem to grasp that the city was using wastewater, not fit-for-human-consumption potable water, to maintain the grass, shrubbery and trees.
“Casa Grande has treatment and water reuse capacity to handle both current flows and future growth,” said Raines. “We understand and appreciate how important water is to everyone in the city and throughout the County. We’re proud of how we’ve handled perhaps our most important resource.”
Pat Johnson’s interview took place at the four-square-mile Attesa property, between Bianco and Montgomery Roads, just south of Interstate 8. We set up at the southeast corner of our land, at the highest elevation, on the access road for the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal that runs east to west across our property.
The producer’s first question felt like a planned negative, asking how bad the water issue was going to impact Attesa. Pat’s response was both appropriate and accurate, as he explained that water was not really a problem. The issue was who has control over the water, and how it’s distributed.
“The water here, we’ve had the wells tested, there are eight of them, and they go down to 1500 ft. in depth. The water level is at 400 feet,” said Johnson. “We’ve got a hundred-year supply of water here, easily.”
“Arizona did a really good job of managing water early on,” he added. “ADWR (the Arizona Department of Water Resources, which manages water statewide), has been working with us and others to try and get a revised, more accurate allocation formula. They’re getting it fixed and we’re confident we’ll get a certificate.”
FYI: Attesa is in Pinal County, a rural, traditionally agricultural and mining region that wasn’t previously dependent upon on Lake Mead, the Colorado river and/or the CAP for water. In fact, the land where Attesa will be built has been growing all kinds of crops for nearly 100 years. Even today, a portion of Attesa’s 2500 acres is producing sorghum for cattle feed.
“At one point the farmers had pumped the water level down to a level of 800 ft., or 400 ft. lower than the level the table is now,” added Johnson. “But when the CAP was built the farmers stopped pumping, they didn’t have to; that’s why the groundwater level has risen so substantially.”
“This 19-year drought is one of the worst in the last 1,200 years,” said U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman at a June 2018 briefing. “This is the time for action to reduce risks on the Colorado River.”
Action is a good idea. Smart people will make smarter decisions and ideally our future will be every bit as bright as our past – ignoring the Colorado River.
Gilbert, Arizona, just approved a $31.2 million water lease with the San Carlos Apache Tribe. That lease will give the town of Gilbert access to nearly 6000 acre-feet of water per year, or enough to service 12 to 15K homes.
Salt River Project, which serves Maricopa County and metro Phoenix, recently announced water use has decreased by 33% since 1980, despite the state’s population doubling since then. And as of today, the state of Arizona actually uses less water, in total, than it did 60 years ago.
Arizona is actually a shining star as far as water management is concerned. Yes, there’s currently a difference of opinion between city, county, state and federal influencers. And yes, all of those regulatory skirmishes have slowed things down a bit for developers.
But historically, and long before statehood, the natives, pioneers, entrepreneurs and business leaders recognized and understood they lived in a desert and water was their community’s lifeblood.
Conservation and progressive resource management was priority one.
Nothing has changed. And we have no doubt there’s going to be a happy ending.