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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : local May 24, 2016

11/23/2012 8:33:00 AM
Planning our water future in Cottonwood
Tom Whitmer
Tom Whitmer

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD -- The City of Cottonwood is already among the "most aggressive" communities in Arizona in its water management and conservation practices, but Tom Whitmer wants to take that work another step.

The Natural Resources director says his predecessor, Bob Hardy, set the city on its track toward successful conservation, first by convincing the council to acquire the surrounding private water companies to achieve better control and then plugging many system leaks. "He knew it was important to stay ahead of the game and be proactive when it came to water," Whitmer said.

"We are now using less water than we were six years ago. We are holding our own. Use is not going up."

The most successful elements of water conservation have been "improvements to the infrastructure and the cost of water," Whitmer said. The city now has a four-tier water rate system that makes higher usage of the liquid more costly.

Whitmer said, "We can't recapture outdoor water use," when drinking water is used.

The city now recaptures or re-uses 60 percent of what comes out of the tap, mainly by efficiencies in its wastewater system, and that is expected to improve in the coming years with reclaimed water lines stretching to the city's playing fields. New lines were installed recently on the way to Cottonwood school grounds and Garrison Park during the recent road construction on Mingus Avenue.

He has sampled the best ideas from numerous other communities. As part of a plan to anticipate what Cottonwood will need at build-out, Whitmer is suggesting that we flush less and be more efficient in cooling, among others.

He is suggesting Cottonwood follow examples of other Arizona communities, like Payson and Flagstaff, which now mandate low-flow toilets working with 1.6 gallons of water versus the old-style 3.5 gallons and using "waterless urinals." In the Verde Valley, the only location to currently use waterless urinals is the Sedona Library.

Whitmer also likes the idea of prohibiting evaporative coolers from new construction. He said each of those consume five to 10 gallons per hour, or up to 200 gallons per day.

Whitmer held the first of a series of outreach discussions last week at a small community gathering. That meeting was greeted with enthusiastic comment. He said additional meetings will be held after the holidays and the first of the year to sample public opinion on a long-term strategy.

Whitmer has published "Seven Key Water Management Policies":

• The value of the Verde River -Cottonwood's most important asset.

• The value of Conservation - conserve, reuse and recharge and maximize returns to Verde River

• The value of reliable data - help site wells and assist with water adjudication.

• The value of Surface water rights-develop a plan to acquire senior surface water rights

• The value of good neighbors - cooperative efforts to settle with downstream parties in cost-sharing

• The value of opportunity - to protect and sustain good water supplies

• The value of fiscal accountability - projects will be balanced with financial responsibility.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012
Article comment by: TJ Omalley is Right! Time for Reuse

Two towns in Texas are doing just what TJ O'Malley suggests. This isn't rocket science folks, the technology is available. The Verde Valley will have to turn to this eventually.

See the article at:

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012
Article comment by: Harven Gosser

Lived here over 10 years. Flush less, you bet, my wife & i only flush about every 5-6 times we pee..always when we poop. incredible savings in water. rarely have guest so don't do it then.
Have several neighbors & sure there are tons more that have many plants / trees and use underground water one can see how much water they use. If we doubt we will have future water, no new structurs should be built. Period..

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012
Article comment by: two cents

Please make sure that invitations are extended to Fred Russkin and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife management association.

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012
Article comment by: T.J. O'Malley

Let me put this question out their cause I have been thinking about if for a few years now, I work at a wastewater treatment facility and have for the past four years, I am also a state certified grade 2 wastewater collections operator, we put out around 73 million gallons of eff per year, effluent is treated wastewater if you didn't know, and it goes out to an evaporative lagoon, we have a test well not far from our evap pond's, we test our effluent everyday for fecal coliform to ensure the water we put out is not contaminated, why can this water be put back into the drinking water system, im not to sure how water is treated, but im sure it can be treated to be used for human consumption again, alot of WWTP in the phoenix area put their eff back into the salt river from what I was told by a guy who used to work fro one, can people wrap their minds around this.

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012
Article comment by: perhaps mr. maverick could allow that the local council has not ignored the issue...

even when it has not been a popular choice.

watching the meetings online or reading the minutes has shown there to be significant concern for water issues in the city.

so not all "politicians" are following your line of thought.

Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Article comment by: Mr Maverick

It is ridiculous to use drinking water for swamp coolers or grass. We do not have enough, period. Our politicians ignore this problem.

Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Article comment by: Well Hopefully

Well hopefully the new construction will also come with some type of alternate energy, like solar, to offset the increased cost in electricity. If people can't afford that for new construction, maybe they should buy one of the already built homes that is for sale. There certainly is enough of those around and they can get around that little issue.

Posted: Saturday, November 24, 2012
Article comment by: Convert to water-less devices indoors/outdoors.

1. Water-less sports fields (public/private).

2. Water-less golf cources (public/private).

3. Water-less lawns (public/private) go desert
plants, stones, rocks, bolders, jugs...etc.

4. Water-less swin pools (public/private).

5. Water-less water fountains (public/private).

6. Water-less snow making machines (private/

You can add or subtract to this list ....but bottom
line, as the first commentator ask, can we really
measure the quantity of water available for us to
squander....or do wait til our wells are pumped
dry?....Good Luck.

Posted: Saturday, November 24, 2012
Article comment by: ron grafe

So, if we prohibit evap coolers, is the city going to pay the difference between water and electric costs? And how 'bout some cosideration to requiring a bit more proof of water availabillity for the wave of housing growth to come?

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