City hoping to revive Dogtown 1 well, Dogtown 4 in works as backup

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - With Williams still battling a water crisis, city officials know they need one additional well immediately and at least one additional well in the future. The question now is where those wells will be located.

The city's primary focus right now is the Dogtown 1 well, which stopped producing water on May 19 for unknown reasons. The well was previously producing about 250 gallons per minute, which came out to about 11 million gallons per month.

After several previous unsuccessful attempts to remove the column pipe from the well using cranes, workers sent charges down into the well two weeks ago to help separate the pipe. The workers were able to remove all but about 30 feet of column pipe and the pump from the hole. At that point, workers sent a camera into the well to try to determine if it will be salvageable, but murky water prevented them from seeing anything. City Manager Brandon Buchanan said the next step is to use a chemical to clear up the water and then send the camera down again.

"We're optimistic at this point based on some preliminary data that we can salvage it, but Williams has a long history of when things can go wrong they do go wrong, so we have to plan accordingly," he said. "We're making the best decisions we can with the information we have at any given point. They're not always perfect decisions, but they're the best ones with the best information we have."

The cost of doing the blasting, removing the column pipe, and sending the camera down the first time is estimated to be about $75,000.

If Dogtown 1 is not fixable, the city will drill another well nearby, which would be called Dogtown 4.

Williams City Council members approved the location for the potential Dogtown 4 well at their June 26 meeting. The new well would be located 200 feet southwest from Dogtown 2 and 100 feet east from the Dogtown 3 waterline. This location is far enough from the collapsed Dogtown 1 well while remaining close enough to the existing water and electrical lines.

Currently the city is in the process of obtaining permits from the U.S. Forest Service and Salt River Project officials, just in case. If the Dogtown 4 well is needed, drilling would cost in the $730,000 range, including drilling, engineering, utilities to the new well site and a new water line.

"If need be we'll be ready to move on it as fast as possible," Buchanan said. "But if we are able to salvage Dogtown 1, we will not need Dogtown 4. We are still committed to additional wells, immediately at least one additional well, which likely wouldn't be for several reasons in that Dogtown Well field."

Those reasons include restrictions for how much water the city can pump from that area, the logistics of getting the water into the system and reliability issues.

Other possible well locations in the future could include sites on Garland Prairie Road and South Road. At the end of May, the city received the results from a geophysical study that determined where water was likely to be located in those areas.

"There was nothing that was stellar saying, okay here's where you need to put a well and put it there tomorrow because this is going to be a gusher," Buchanan said. "There's some potential sites."

Although city officials are focusing on Dogtown 1 right now, Buchanan said they must continue searching for new well sites at the same time.

"We're committed to this (water crisis) not happening again anytime soon," he said. "Historically the city's relied on the lake water. We've seen time and time again, and this is just the latest example, that those lakes can't be relied on to supply water. They're nice to have, they're a great part of the equation, but we have to plan for worst-case scenario like a lot of things we do, and that worst-case scenario is what we're living now as far as there's no lakes available. So the idea is to eventually maybe not regularly rely on solely well water but have the ability to supply our needs with well water by itself if need be."

In other water-related news, the Rodeo Well was hooked up to the city's water system two weeks ago.

"Right now it's producing about 150 gallons a minute, which isn't where we'd like it to be obviously," Buchanan said. "But right now, 150 is better than nothing."

The arsenic level in the Rodeo Well water is still slightly above the legal limit to be able to go directly into the distribution system. So staff first blends the water with water from Dogtown Lake and Dogtown 3 well and then sends it to the treatment plant.

"But between blending and treatment, it's perfectly safe to drink the water," Buchanan said.

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