Have you ever turned on the water at your kitchen sink and wondered, “Where does this water come from?”
WATER RIGHTS FOR FOUNTAIN HILLS
Getting water to homes in Fountain Hills was a big hurdle that had to be cleared in the late 1960s when McCulloch Properties, Inc. wanted to develop this area into the community we know and love today. Fountain Hills’ original “New Town Development Plan” included adequate water supply from wells drilled within the community, and McCulloch drilled three such drills in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Immediately, the Salt River Project (SRP) challenged the right to pump water from these wells. SRP claimed an exclusive right to all groundwater pumped in the area on the basis that the source of such pumping was the underflow of the Verde River. So, McCulloch Properties commissioned a geologic study to verify SRP’s claim. The study concluded the Verde River, from Horseshoe Dam to Granite Reef Dam, flowed on top of a prehistoric lake bed of clay, sealing the river from water aquifers below the lake bed. McCulloch Properties thought it was in the clear.
Then the Arizona State Department of Water Resources contracted with a consultant who gave a different conclusion. When the department sided with the new finding, McCulloch had two options: buy water rights to the Verde River from SRP or obtain rights elsewhere to provide water for Fountain Hills.
In the mid-1970s, McCulloch successfully applied for a share of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) water. Today 85-90 percent of Fountain Hills water comes from the CAP.
WHERE DO WE GET OUR WATER?
As a Fountain Hills resident, you pay your monthly water bill to EPCOR, whose local office is on Panorama Drive. But before EPCOR can deliver water to your faucets, that water makes a long journey.
It begins with rainfall or snow in the mountains, trickling downstream to reach Lake Powell and Lake Mead. From Lake Mead, which sits on the border of Arizona and Nevada, it travels through hundreds of miles of canals across the state. When it reaches the EPCOR system, it’s filtered and tested before finishing its final miles to your home.
WHY ARE LAKE MEAD AND LAKE POWELL DRYING UP?
In 1922, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, California, and Nevada signed the Colorado River Compact. The agreement paved the way for the construction of Hoover Dam, which created Lake Mead, and Glen Canyon Dam, which created Lake Powell.
Today, the Colorado River Basin is facing a water supply crisis. It began with flawed projections that overestimated the river flow and underestimated the water demand to come. After decades of growing demand, relentless shortage, and climate change, both reservoirs are now more than half empty.
IS FOUNTAIN HILLS’ WATER SUPPLY IN DANGER?
Water management is a never-ending job throughout the entire Western United States. The Arizona Department of Water Resources and EPCOR are optimistic about the future of water for Arizonans.
“You’re already far more efficient than your grandparents, or even your parents, when it comes to energy and water use,” EPCOR states on its website. “According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, we’re using less water today than in 1957 when just 1.1 million people called Arizona home. It’s a testament to changes in the way our state uses water, smarter water management, innovations in technology, and – last but certainly not least – simple choices that ordinary people are making every day that use less water.”
Regarding water shortages, EPCOR states on its website, “Water managers have been planning for this possibility for many years. Most importantly for EPCOR customers, the restrictions we anticipate in 2023 will have minimal impact on municipal and industrial users like EPCOR. As a result, we do not anticipate reductions through 2023 to affect our customers.”
Some of EPCOR’s management strategies include:
- Making sure our water supply portfolio draws from many sources
- Maximizing our use of reclaimed water
- Saving water when it’s not needed
- Creatively partnering with other water users to add long-term flexibility to our supply
- Upgrading wells for recovery of banked groundwater
For more information about EPCOR, visit: https://www.epcor.com/
For more information about the Arizona Department of Water Resources, visit: https://new.azwater.gov
For more information about ASU’s Arizona Water Blueprint, visit: https://azwaterblueprint.asu.edu