Salt River Project’s Board of Governors has approved an agreement with Payson Water Co. to sever water rights from the C.C. Cragin Reservoir, formerly Blue Ridge Reservoir, and transfer them for use to the Mesa Del Caballo water service area near Payson.
The agreement is the first of what potentially could be several deals between SRP and smaller Rim Country communities to bring water from C.C. Cragin Reservoir. It is also one of the many benefits that resulted from the passage of the Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act of 2004, which authorized up to 3,500 acre-feet of water from Cragin Reservoir to be used in northern Gila County.
The town of Payson secured 3,000 acre-feet of Cragin water in 2008 through an agreement with SRP. The remaining 500 acre-feet of water has been designated as a future water solution for the smaller Rim communities. Deliveries to Mesa Del Caballo are anticipated to be made via the town of Payson’s future pipeline, which will move Cragin Reservoir water to Payson’s water treatment plant adjacent to Mesa Del Caballo. Both the pipeline and water treatment plant are scheduled to be operational in the spring of 2015.
The agreement allows for the severance and transfer of an average of 70 acre-feet per year of Cragin Reservoir water, with a maximum annual delivery amount not to exceed 82 acre-feet.
Steve Westwood, a Water Rights & Contracts senior analyst, said SRP has been working with a number of water providers and community water systems since 2005 to identify opportunities to establish agreements for C.C. Cragin water.
SRP has also been very concerned, he said, that continued well pumping on the Verde and Salt watersheds to meet growing water demand is negatively affecting the water supply of SRP shareholders.
“The opportunity to protect our shareholder’s water rights, supplement water supplies in the northern Gila County region and achieve water settlements to provide certainty for a long-term sustainable water supply and resolve water-rights claims has been a major focus of our efforts,” said Westwood.
“This agreement sets the stage for a framework for other small water companies to partner with SRP to ensure an adequate and renewable water supply and resolve water-right claims.”
The northern Gila County region is located within the Salt and Verde watersheds, which provide the water supply for SRP shareholders. The region, which includes Payson, is a future growth area where surface water is fully appropriated and groundwater is overused, Westwood said.
SRP’s acquisition of the Cragin Reservoir in 2004 identified the town of Payson and other Rim communities such as Mesa Del Caballo as potential customers. SRP operates and maintains Cragin Dam and Reservoir for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
“This agreement clears the way for a reliable, long-term water supply for Mesa Del Caballo, which for many years has had repeated water-shortage issues due to unsupportive geology and underperforming wells,” said Robert Hardcastle, president of Brooke Utilities Inc., the parent company of Payson Water Co., a private regulated utility. “This agreement also provides the community certainty by resolving any water-right conflicts with SRP.”
Payson Water Co.’s agreement with SRP generally covers the allocation and access of water from Cragin Reservoir, while the delivery and treatment of the Cragin water will be made through another agreement with the town of Payson.
SRP is the largest provider of water and power to the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.