On Oct. 17, Oro Valley town council authorized and approved the 2018 Potable Water Master Plan.
But, what is a water master plan? It’s a town policy recommendation that Oro Valley has employed multiple times in the past. Due to these plans, Oro Valley now uses less groundwater than it did in 2003, despite an increase in population.
Oro Valley Water Utility Director Peter Abraham presented the 2018 Master Plan to the town council, stating: “Right now we use less overall consumption of groundwater… We’re below 5,000 acre-feet every year. There was a point where we were at 11,000 acre-feet. We are darn near at sustainable, meaning a non-aquifer depleting pumping rate. That right there, that’s a big deal.”
Abraham describes his job as quite simple. According to him, the town council says what they’re going to do, and he figures how to use the appropriate amount of water.
“We’re going to do what we need to do to provide safe drinking water for the community.” Abraham said.
The 2018 Potable Water Master Plan is the result of a 12-month collaboration between HDR Engineering, the Water Utility Commission and the Oro Valley Water Utility Staff. Oro Valley’s Water Master Plan provides a 10-year road map for the town’s Water Utility. The Master Plan both discusses changes since the last plan was adopted in 2006 and outlines infrastructure improvements to meet the demands of future growth.
According to the executive summary, the primary goals of the 2018 Potable Water Master Plan are to “evaluate the existing potable water system, identify projects required for existing system improvements, project the demands of future growth and the infrastructure required to meet those demands.”
“For the 2018 Master Plan, my goal is to take this town to build-out,” Abraham said. “But we needed to figure out how many resources it would take.”
Predicting future water demands through town build-out, estimated from 2028 to 2033, was based upon growth projections, land use assumptions and historical water use trends.
“The Master Plan covers build-out, but the robustness of the projects and the excess capacity available for those projects lets us go to town build-out, plus.” Abraham said, meaning the Master Plan takes into account all the water the town will need, plus it has excess water left over for some as-of-yet unknown future projects.
Predicted water demands were then used to identify the infrastructure required to meet those demands. Associated projects include recovery wells, transmission pipelines, reservoirs and booster stations.
“Every acre-foot of reclaimed water is an acre-foot of groundwater you don’t have to use,” said Abraham.
Approval of the Master Plan does not authorize town spending to construct the identified projects. The design and construction of each project must still be approved as part of the town’s annual budget process. As part of this, there is no inherent fiscal impact associated with the town adopting the Master Plan.
“It’s a technical document that supports council policy and direction.” Abraham said. “The Master Plan is not a policy document, it’s supports the policy that’s already in place.”
In specifics, the Master Plan is a 120-page document listing water policies and codes, service area boundaries, pipe networks, daily water demands and suggested infrastructure improvements. These suggested improvements are nine projects for the town’s water distribution system, to be implemented in the next seven years, totaling $3.96 million in expenditures.
“Water resources in Arizona are not a thing you can describe adequately in a newspaper column,” Abrahams said.
So in an attempt to inform the public out how their water works, Abraham taught a series of classes in Oro Valley’s “Community Academy” on water resources.