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Thu, July 29

The demand for water: Is the solution more wells or decreased use in Williams?

Kaibab Lake is one of five surface reservoirs that supplement the city of Williams water supply. (Photo/Kaibab National Forest)

Kaibab Lake is one of five surface reservoirs that supplement the city of Williams water supply. (Photo/Kaibab National Forest)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Pull out any archived edition of the Williams News from the past 120 years and there will be a story about water. However, the problem isn’t necessarily a lack of water, it’s how to get to the water.

Water woes have plagued the city since its inception, and it continues today.

The Williams City Council was recently advised that demand for water this year is up 30 percent over normal.

“We actually treated 1.1 million gallons one day in June, which I’ve never seen us have to treat that much water,” said Pat Carpenter, water and wastewater consultant for Williams.

Carpenter said because of the increase in water demand, the outcome is the waste water treatment plant is also operating at high levels.

“So everything is trending up, and with everything going on around town, it’s just busy,” Carpenter told the council.

The city obtains water primarily from three wells — the two Dogtown wells and the Rodeo well. A fourth well, Santa Fe, produces a minor amount of water for the city. The city supplements the wells with water from Dogtown Reservoir, City Reservoir, Santa Fe Reservoir, Cataract Lake and Kaibab Lake.

In 2015, the city completed drilling of the Sweetwater Well in response to the failure of one of the Dogtown wells that coincided with low reservoir water. That left the city with just a seven-month supply of water and resulted in water restrictions for residents and a moratorium on new building.

The city spent $4.5 million drilling the Sweetwater Well and nearly $2 million to resuscitate the Dogtown 1 well.

Now the city is considering whether it’s time to put the Sweetwater Well into production. The well is encased in concrete, but would need to be cleared and tested. Installation of a pump, testing for arsenic, and connections to the city water system are still needed to complete the project.

“This has been on my radar for a while,” Carpenter said. “But when you are dealing with wells of that nature, it’s not inexpensive.”

The city is also considering whether to increase production at the Dogtown Wells. The current pumps produce about 450 gallons per minute, and with bigger pumps could produce at least 100 gallons per minute more, Carpenter said.

Geology plays a huge role in Williams’ hunt for a steady water supply.

Most towns in northern Arizona can find water less than 1,000 feet below the surface as they can tap into the C-aquifer (Coconino aquifer) in the Little Colorado River Basin. This includes Flagstaff, Winslow, Holbrook and the Navajo Nation.

However, Williams is unable to tap in to the C-aquifer because it goes deeper in the substrate below Williams.

Williams must drill into the Redwall-Mauv aquifer in a layer of limestone nearly 3,000 feet below the surface.

Because of the depths needed for the Sweetwater Well, the city hired a special drilling company that typically digs for oil and gas, not water.

“The biggest problem we have are the expenses,” Carpenter said. “The other wells around Prescott and other areas…it’s going to cost $25,000 to replace a pump. If our wells go out, you are looking at $250,000 to 300,000. It’s a little different.”

The city’s wells can produce about 700,000 gallons of water per day, and the rest of the demand must come from the reservoirs. When water demand is lower in the winter, the city pumps water from the wells and stores it in the reservoirs.

Williams recently added to that storage with a new one million gallon tank on the east side of Williams.

“Depending on the weather this winter, if we don’t get any weather this year, it’s going to be challenging to meet the demand next year,” Carpenter said.

Unless the demand decreases, the city will need to look at spending more money on water infrastructure, Carpenter said.

“We know exactly where it’s (water) at, but it’s expensive to get there,” he said.

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