WILLIAMS, Ariz. - To address the city of Williams' water crisis, city officials are expanding their efforts from exploring one potential well site to three.
The Williams City Council decided to look for additional well sites at Garland Prairie and South Road, in addition to continuing to evaluate the Rodeo Well, at its March 27 meeting.
The city declared a water crisis and implemented the highest level of water restrictions on Feb. 25.
The council initially decided to pursue the Rodeo Well option at its March 6 work session.
Former Water Superintendent James Courchaine said that while some people believe the poor water quality in the Rodeo Well was what destroyed a few pumps at that location in the past, that was not the case. In the first instance the motor failed, in the second instance the transducer failed and in the third instance the problem actually was the pump after being in use for two to three months, according to Courchaine.
March 28 was Courchaine's last day with the city after he resigned for personal reasons.
While the city looks for new management for the water department, three foremen and an environmental compliance employee are overseeing day-to-day operations. City Manager Brandon Buchanan, city staff and council members are working with different consultants to resolve the water crisis.
The first step in exploring the Rodeo Well was to use a camera to determine if it would be usable. Among other things, the camera would allow the city to make sure the well hasn't collapsed.
However, because of some metal banding in the well from a previous pump, the camera wasn't able to view the entire well. Buchanan estimated the camera still had about 400-500 feet to go past the banding.
The metal banding will need to be removed from the well at a cost of between $10,000-$20,000 so the city can camera the remainder of the well.
"We're getting a cart before the horse," said Mayor John Moore. "We don't even need a pump yet."
If the camera shows the well is intact, the next step would be to install a pump in the well for 30 days and test the water. One company estimated bringing the equipment to and from Utah or Denver, installing and removing it, and doing periodic inspections for 30 days would cost about $100,000, plus $80,000 for the equipment rental.
If the system works, the rental costs would be put toward the purchase of the equipment. The city would pay an additional $60,000 if it chose to purchase the equipment.
Based on the issues the city has had with the Rodeo Well in the past, several companies recommended the city use a pump that has perforated casing, which would dissipate harmful gasses and reduce corrosion.
Vice Mayor Don Dent said a company from Chino Valley could probably put the pump in for less money than the quote discussed at the meeting. Buchanan said the city could get additional proposals, including one from the company in Chino Valley, in the next week or so to compare prices.
Moore told the council that the city was burning daylight and needed to start making decisions. He instructed Councilmen Lee Payne, Craig Fritsinger and Dent to form a committee to meet with city staff and water experts to discuss different options with vendors between council meetings.
Councilman Frank McNelly agreed that the city needed to keep moving to find water solutions.
"We need to hurry up and find out if this Rodeo Well is going to pan out for us," he said. "And if it doesn't then we need to do other options."
Other possible well sites
The city council also discussed exploring two other well options: one on South Road and one at Garland Prairie. These additional sites would be necessary if the Rodeo Well doesn't work out, and useful for the future even if the Rodeo Well does work out.
"To me the more the merrier," Payne said. "You never know when one might go down."
Moore agreed, saying the city needed to focus its resources on the water situation.
"My thoughts are that we should be pursuing every possible (well) site that we've got. I know it costs money. But we need to be doing it," Moore said. "My thoughts are let's bite the bullet and maybe we don't fix the street or something. But water right now is our most important issue."
The next steps for exploring the South Road and Garland Prairie well sites would be to use radar to map the underground structures and determine where water is likely to be located. The geophysical study for both areas will cost about $40,000. Testing and analyzing data for both potential well sites at the same time will save about three weeks of time and about $10,000.
Buchanan emphasized that running the tests doesn't guarantee the presence or quality of water.
Money from the city's 0.5 percent sales tax increase, which went into effect last March to generate money for street repairs, will possibly help pay for the emergency water costs.
Buchanan noted that he was particularly interested in the potential South Road well location, since the city already has a water line running to the Young Life Camp that could be reversed to bring the water straight to the distribution system.
During the water discussion, Payne also suggested buying another water pump in case a pump on one of the city's existing wells goes out.
Dent said buying a backup pump was a good idea, since pumps take at least a month to build and if one well went down it would be difficult for the city to meet demand.
"Instead of being down for five or six weeks or seven weeks we might be out for six or seven days," he said. "We could probably get by for six or seven days. We can't get by for six or seven weeks."
Council directed staff to look into the backup pump and investigate both potential well sites.
The council also discussed the meter replacement program again, but said they were not ready to make a decision. The city is waiting to receive some proposals on how much the program would cost before taking action.