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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions May 26, 2016

4/16/2013 1:05:00 PM
My Turn: Cottonwood has achieved impressive results in its water conservation efforts
Tom Whitmer

The City of Cottonwood has achieved impressive results in its water conservation efforts, creating an example for other municipal water providers in Arizona. These accomplishments are the result of a water management strategy that has included a mix of acquisitions, upgrades and conservation measures.

In 2005, Cottonwood purchased the private water companies that served water to the City and surrounding area. At the time, there was some criticism about this move, but from a water management perspective, it was a wise decision. Seven years later, these acquisitions and other measures have paid off. The City is pumping about 15 percent less water today than it did in 2006 and almost 20 percent less than what it was projected to pump in 2012.

The City’s total gallons per capita per daily (GPCD) use has been reduced by almost 30 percent. The City’s continuous water delivery system maintenance and upgrade work has reduced system losses by almost 80 percent.

While these accomplishments already benefit Cottonwood’s citizens and its natural environment, the City is looking toward the future and believes it will serve the community even better by meeting all of the conservation standards it has envisioned. Cottonwood will continue to honor its commitment to upgrade and improve the water delivery system and will also expand its water conservation, water reuse and recharge efforts.

Like many other cities and towns throughout the arid west, Cottonwood is developing and implementing public outreach programs, offering financial incentives, and passing ordinances designed to encourage and even mandate the conservation and management of water.

The City recently adopted a water management strategy that outlines seven key policies rooted in smart relations and values. They include protecting the Verde River, conserving groundwater, relying on accurate hydrologic data, recognizing the value of surface water rights, maintaining good relations with neighboring communities, embracing opportunities and being fiscally accountable in its water management practices. Cottonwood also completed a proposed comprehensive conservation program that consists of education and outreach programs, incentivized rebates, and new policies and ordinances.

At the direction of the City Council, staff members have reached out to citizen and business groups throughout Cottonwood for input on the proposed conservation program. The response and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Later this summer, the City plans on formally adopting and implementing the comprehensive conservation program. When implemented, the conservation plan will reduce the City’s already-low GPCD -- making it one of the lowest in the state.

The City is investigating the feasibility of increasing the current reuse of reclaimed water and recharging all unused reclaimed water back into the groundwater system. The completion of the new water reclamation facility will also allow the City to expand its use reclaimed water for irrigation in place of the currently used potable well water.

The goal is to eventually reuse and/or recharge 100 percent of the reclaimed water. This effort, in conjunction with a comprehensive conservation program and the ongoing operation and maintenance efforts, will position the City of Cottonwood to be on the leading edge of water management and conservation in Arizona.

Tom Whitmer is the Natural Resources Manager for the City of Cottonwood

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: Slater Slater

Perhaps branding Cottonwood as an Oasis
would attract thousands of new residents.That should take care of our water issues.

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: According to the VRBP website... .

The City of Cottonwood is listed under VRBP's partner links page... so that indicates it is already a partner right?

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: Reminder what the VRBP is and isn't

Let's remember what the VRBP is and isn't.

The VRBP's purpose, its special interest if you want to call it that, is protection of the Verde River.

VRBP is a Partnership. It is literally the Verde River Basin Partnership.

The VRBP is the congressionally authorized entity responsible for creating a partnership of stakeholders to responsibly manage water and protect the river.

Unless you are opposed to protection of the Verde River, there is no good reason to consider the VRBP a special interest group.

If Cottonwood wants to play a responsible leadership role in the region, they should join this group and actively participate to be sure their interests are represented.

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: The Recent VRBP/USGS Public Meeting Was Useful.

The USGS team indicated that their report
was about 99% theory of the ground water
process. And they were right....the only facts
that they used/presented was the 3 water flow
meter historic data....the remainder of the talk
was centered around the theory of how water
moves/flows in the ground, and how it impacts water flow above ground.

Now the towns, cities and county of Yavapai
need to move from theory to facts....such
as how much water is in the ground...and at
what time will we've drained/pumped it dry.
And/or what the Use/Re-Use/Recharge

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: Proud to be from Cottonwood!

As a long-time resident of Cottonwood, I am proud to live in this city that I call home. I am proud of what residents and their elected representatives do for conservation. I am proud of the concern Cottonwood residents show for our beautiful Verde River. It's about ALL the people in Cottonwood, and even surrounding communities that are part of Cottonwood's water services, because we're all under the same water conservation policies. People here are way ahead of the Verde River Basin Partnership, who seems to think they've invented all ideas about saving the Verde, when the residents of Cottonwood have been working on this for years. Dig your heads out of the sand, people! Proud to be from Cottonwood. I've been participating in the general plan, and we're going to keep on keeping on, no matter the negativity that surrounds us. We Cottonwood people are staying focused on the goal, a thriving river and a robust, diversified economy.

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: Just maybe the folks that cogito names- .

Have been aware of and actually doing something about the issue for quite some time before it became the cause de' celebre it is today.

As a previous comment said... even the VRBP is not itself outside the sphere of being a special interest.

If attendance at public events is the requirement for validity in this issue- where has everyone else been for the last several years while the City was being active in a solution to the problem, as an example- reducing it's pumped volume by 30%?

It seems that they may be ahead of the curve in this game rather than missing in action as described.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Cogito Ergosumatra

@"Let's Hope..." - maybe all 7 of the Cottonwood City Council (including the Mayor) and the City manager and the Utilities Director and the Natural Resources Director were all at a more important event during the USGS rollout. Maybe they already knew all they need to know. Maybe, like Prescott and Prescott Valley, they don't need no stinkin' facts. Maybe they just don't care. It's hard to think of a good reason for their obvious absence, though.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Not to split hairs but- the VRBP- .

Is in fact another special interest isn't it?

While it's interest is the Verde River Basin, and that's great interest, it's still a special interest.

Agreed that empirical science should lead the way but as stated- be wary of the motivations of any certain interest group. If the VRBP's idea of compromise/conservation is absolutely no growth that is not very realistic or constructive (pardon the pun). If the number for the state trust land started at 50,000 units/people and the city had gotten that down to 12,500 or so...then perhaps a 75% decrease could be considered a progressive victory rather than holding out for absolutely 0?

Especially considering the alternative is private development or wildcatting.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Let's hope for permanent sustainability

Apparently no one from the City of Cottonwood bothered to attend the recent VRBP/USGS presentation in Camp Verde.

Neither did Prescott and Prescott Valley, who are taking a "don't confuse me with the facts" approach to water management and planning.

Let's hope the City of Cottonwood really means what they say about protecting the Verde River and having positive relations with neighboring communities.

That hasn't always been the case.

Cottonwood has over the past decade butted heads with all of its neighbors, from Clarkdale to Cornville to Camp Verde.

We also heard at one time from utilities manager Dan Leuder there was essentially "plenty of water" to build a new Flagstaff-sized city of 50,000 out on the State Trust land east of Cottonwood.

The science says such a claim is absurd. There are limitations to the permanently sustainable carrying capacity of our aquifer. Cottonwood needs to realize this.

So let's hope the City of Cottonwood really means what Mr. Whitmer says here.

Let's hope the City of Cottonwood fully buys into the VRBP and uses empirical science instead of special interests to inform future water policy.

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