COTTONWOOD – The oft-heard refrain of growth opponents in the Verde Valley is “Where are they going to get the water?”
Well, there apparently is plenty of water not too far underground in and around Cottonwood’s Riverfront Park.
That was the lesson learned recently by Cottonwood city officials when drilling an exploratory injection well. The well was a test run for the city’s plans for aquifer recharge with effluent from the new Riverfront Park wastewater reclamation facility.
It was a test that has sent city staff back to the drawing board.
“We ran into an artesian situation,” said Cottonwood Natural Resources Manager Tom Whitmer. “There was water coming out of the well.”
Further attempts at pressurized injection were scrapped as the hydro-geologic landscape is water-saturated.
That will not delay the opening of the Riverfront Park facility. The problem now is what the city will do with the effluent.
It’s not a problem without a solution.
Whitmer told council members that “nothing is off the table” when deciding the best uses for the A+ quality effluent, of which the Riverfront Park facility will generate about 280,000 gallons daily.
The city still will use the effluent to irrigate the Riverfront Park facilities. It now likely will be expanded to other parks in the city and the Cottonwood Middle School ballfields.
There is consideration for creating an orchard site near the community garden as another use for the effluent. Some of it will be used to irrigate the Cottonwood Cemetery grounds. There have even been discussions about disposing the effluent directly into the Verde River or Cottonwood Ditch.
The problem with the latter option, though, as explained by Council Member Kyla Allen, is it would disrupt the biological balance of the river. That’s not because there are pollutants in the effluent, but, rather, because “our water is too clean,” said Allen.
Still crucial to the city’s plans for the Riverfront Park facility effluent is to force-feed it back into the groundwater supply to boost the city’s water portfolio, said Whitmer.
With injection wells off the table now at Riverfront Park, the city is exploring use of a well site at 12th Street and Cochise, as well as drilling another exploratory well at the Cottonwood Kids Park to see if it would work for groundwater recharge.
“We have to narrow down our alternatives and determine the cost for each,” said Whitmer.
As for the Riverfront Park area, “The good news is that we’ve got a lot of water. The bad news is we’ve got a lot of water.”
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