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home : opinions : opinions June 25, 2016

4/8/2014 9:59:00 AM
Editorial: When it comes to water in Williams, there's no time to wait
Williams-Grand Canyon News

While most of northern Arizona will likely feel the effect of a dry winter in the coming months, the city of Williams faces a more severe water shortage.

The city declared a water crisis and implemented the highest level of water restrictions on Feb. 25. The council decided to look into pumping water from the already dug Rodeo Well option at its March 6 work session.

But after the Council's March 27 meeting, it looks like progress toward finding a new source of water has been slow.

Williams Mayor John Moore said council members must start making decisions. He asked Councilmen Lee Payne, Craig Fritsinger and Don Dent to form a committee to meet with city staff and water experts to discuss different options with vendors before the next council meeting.

Councilman Frank McNelly echoed the sentiment. He said council members must "hurry up" and find out if the Rodeo Well is viable and if it is not, move on to other options.

Those options include digging wells in Garland Prairie or near South Road by Lost Canyon.

We couldn't agree more.

It's time to move forward. Officials with the city of Williams need to determine if the Rodeo Well can produce. It is going to cost money - something also in short supply.

Moore indicated that money from the city's street fund might be used to find water and drill wells. While pulling money out of the street fund is a hard pill to swallow, especially when that money could be put to good use on almost any street in the city, it looks like one of the city's only options.

It will cost the city $10,000-$20,000 to put a camera down the Rodeo Well to find out if it's usable. If the camera shows the well is intact, the city will install a pump in the well for 30 days and test the water. As we reported last week, 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 pump 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.

That's $250,000. Not cheap. But not a reason to waste any more time.

Earlier in March, Moore traveled to Phoenix with Dent, City Manager Brandon Buchanan and City Attorney Kellie Peterson to meet with officials with the Arizona Department of Water Resources in an attempt to meet with Salt River Project officials. Salt River Project limits the amount of water the city can pump out of its existing wells. While SRP may have the rights to some of the water from the Williams watershed, hopefully SRP officials see the wisdom in letting Williams pump more water to get through the crisis

The Williams officials also met with the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona to discuss the possibility of applying for grants to help pay for a solution to the water crisis.

If there is a grant available, let's get the application in. Now.

Lastly, the city will not approve new building permits during the level four water crisis. Council members did however decide to amend the city code to allow three exceptions: if the council has already granted a water allocation and the impact fees have already been paid, if the construction will not have any new fixture units connected to the city's potable water supply, and if the permit application was submitted and in process before the city implemented level four water restrictions.

This means the Love's Travel Stop development, a hotel project planned for Seventh Street near the former Winchester Steakhouse and the Good Earth Power project at Garland Prairie can all move forward.

It's a bit of a catch-22. Those projects will use water but at the same time generate impact fee money. That money should go toward building wells.

The city of Williams needs to grow with new economic development. The only way to do that is with viable water sources besides the city's four reservoirs.

Hopefully, the current crisis will, in the end, result in new water sources ensuring a prosperous future for the city and its residents.

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