Water snafu cripples Williams golf course

Misappropriated water left Elephant Rocks scrambling to irrigate the golf course. (Photo/WGCN)

Misappropriated water left Elephant Rocks scrambling to irrigate the golf course. (Photo/WGCN)

The finely tuned water system that keeps Elephant Rocks Golf Course’s tees and fairways green hit a snag June 13 when workers arrived to find nearly empty irrigation ponds June 13.

According to golf course superintendent Marty Yerian, the maintenance staff watches the level of the ponds to ensure the irrigation system is flowing smoothly.

“We watch our lakes and if we notice a serious decline, then we know something is wrong somewhere,” Yerian said.

Yerian contacted the city of Williams, which determined that a contractor may have taken more water than was allocated from the wastewater plant.

Fann Construction, Coconino County and other entities have agreements with the city to use reclaimed water from the wastewater plant for road projects and other construction in the area.

“I-40 (construction) is probably the biggest impact on our whole town, so we want to do as much as we can to help them,” said Mayor John Moore.

The city has specific agreements with Coconino County, Fann Construction and others to use a portion of the reclaimed water at the city’s wastewater plant, Moore said.

Those companies were allowed to use water from the overflow ponds, but after the call from the golf course, city workers found that Fann Construction had taken water from a stand pipe that was allocated to the golf course the night of July 13.

“We have a certain amount of water we need to have every night in order to water,” Yerian said. “With this heat we have to have extra and when we don’t get what we need, we have to cut water somewhere.”

Yerian said the golf course uses between 400,000 — 500,000 gallons of reclaimed water each night, and has 17 million gallons of water in reserve in the ponds at the golf course.

“We watch the lake level and then we go off the amount they send us,” he said. “If we don’t have the water then we have to take it from Cataract (Lake).”

The excess heat has required additional watering at the golf course, Yerian said. In addition, he said the Ponderosa Pine trees are absorbing more water.

“With the heat and the forest being so dry, they are able to pull from the golf course because their roots go out under the grass,” he said. “So in this heat and dryness it takes even more water than we would normally use.”

Moore said the city has been working to create more reclaimed water storage at the wastewater plant, but the city only recently acquired the permits for more holding ponds. Until this spring, excess reclaimed water produced at the plant was sent down Cataract Creek.

“We have to have an ADEQ (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality) permit in place to store the reclaimed water,” Moore said.

Once the monsoons arrive, the ponds should fill and provide more water. But until that happens, the city has stopped all sales of reclaimed water to area construction projects, Moore said.

“I don’t know all the ins and outs of the golf course, but what I know is that if we don’t have the golf course up and working it affects the economy in many areas,” Moore said. “People are not only not playing golf, they are not eating in restaurants, they’re not staying at the hotels and they’re not buying stuff at the shops.”

Fann Construction

Mike Fann, president and CEO of Fann Construction, said his company is purchasing water from the city of Williams for I-40 repaving and reconstruction projects.

He said he did not believe the company was using more water than allocated, but believed there was a miscommunication on where the water was supposed to come from.

“Mainly it was our guys not knowing and there was brief delay in water — it was just a miscommunication,” he said.

The city has told Fann they can continue to pull water from the reclaimed water excess ponds until they run dry.

“We are actually using treated waste water, we are not using any potable water,” Fann said. “There was a pond of empty or almost empty that we have a deal to use until that pond is gone. We’re pulling from that pond now.”

Coconino County

Moore said the city has always had agreements with companies to use reclaimed water from the waste water plant. He said the city has worked with Coconino County for many projects around Williams.

“The county is a partner so if we can we help each other,” he said. “They do things for us sometimes and we do things for them.”

Moore said the city will often do trades with the county where the city provides water while the county provides road work.

One current project is road maintenance on Pronghorn Ranch Road which provides access to H.A. Clark Airport.

“The county and the city of Williams are both complying with the agreement,” said Matt Rudig, public information officer with Coconino County. “However, the city does have the right to limit our water use or cut it off during drought conditions.”

Rudig said the city asked the county to limit its use during the I-40 construction, and the county has complied with the request.

“We have enjoyed a very good partnership with the city of Williams under this agreement and we appreciate their partnership and support of our road maintenance efforts,” he said.

Williams-Grand Canyon News editor Loretta Yerian contributed to this report

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