PAGE – Drought and dropping water levels put states and municipalities in a tough predicament. Lake Mead and Lake Powell are the center of attention for seven states and Mexico. All rely on the Colorado River.
According to Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resource, Arizona is heading for its first Tier 1 water shortage in 2022. This means the state will lose 18% of its water supply from the Colorado River.
Page is unique because its water is congressionally allocated. It is a federal agreement established when the Glen Canyon Dam was built.
Thursday, the Chronicle talked with Bryan Hill, general manager of Page Power and Water (Page Utility Enterprises), to learn how this could affect Page. Hill is more concerned about the town’s aging infrastructure than water supply. A second “straw” from the lake is needed. There is no backup.
Hill said, “We have an infrastructure concern if we lose that one single straw. Page has always been in this situation. We’ve always just had one straw. It’s always been recognized as a weakness, even back in 2005 when they did a study to bring in another pumping plant.”
The price tag for the project is overwhelming for a small town, and the city has hoped to piggyback on other projects and applied for grants. No figures are available, but the cost is loosely in the $20 million range.
Page is hoping to get federal infrastructure funds to help. If it does not, the city may have to finance the project with a bond.
Hill said they have patched and repaired as needed but stresses the urgency to add a second line as soon as possible. The second straw would not increase the water allocation, and Hill says that is not the concern now. Page has enough water to double in size if managed well.
The current elevation level at Lake Powell is about 3,559.95 feet, about 140.05 feet below full pool (3,700 elevation) as of May 23. The water line to Page is 3,363 elevation, 197 feet below the current level.
Electrical power is 3,490 feet below the current water level.
Hill said, “We get to consume 2,740 acre-feet per year. Now when I say consume, we can use that water and then return it to the aquifer. In other words, when we take the water and treat it, for example, and put it back out onto the desert, we get to pump that water again because it goes down into the aquifer and recharges.”
He said, “That’s our allocation, and we’ve managed to be good stewards with it.”
Page uses treated wastewater to maintain the greens at Lake Powell National Golf
Course and supplies to the community garden.
Page gets water credits in addition to its
allocation because the water contributes to the aquifer.
Hill said, “We take water from the lake, which is raw water, take it up to the treatment plant, filter it, treat it with chlorine and UV and then distribute it.
The wastewater goes down to the water treatment plant. That gets separated, cleaned, disinfected. That becomes what we call Class A effluent. I would not drink it. You could, in theory, go down there and swim in it.”