DEQ updating reclaimed and wastewater ordinance for the Community

April 1, 2016


Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News


The Department of Environmental Quality has introduced an updated wastewater and reclaimed water management ordinance, which includes how reclaimed water can used for domestic, commercial and industrial reuse.


The Gila River Indian Community is one of the few tribal nations that is developing a comprehensive wastewater and reclaimed water ordinance.


DEQ Water Quality Program Manager, Glenn Stark said, “The Gila River Indian Community is on the forefront of having an ordinance like [this].”


The ordinance is key to establishing a guideline for performance standards of water quality limits for wastewater treatment, septage and reclaimed water, by allowing the Community to utilize resources without having to take away from naturally occurring sources of water or water that is used for drinking and other amenities.


The ordinance also establishes a more defined classification system for each of the wastewater treatment facilities located in the Community as a measure to protect the health, safety and welfare of the Community by regulating wastewater and reclaimed water. The wastewater facilities located in the Community are classified under a Type A, B and C based on their treatment performance.


DEQ Hydrologist Elisabeth Kahn said, “[This] ordinance is primarily for entities like the Department of Public Works, Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project, Gila River Irrigation and Drainage District and the end users of reclaimed water.”


In 2005 the Community started receiving reclaimed water from the City of Chandler and Mesa.


DEQ’s first version of the ordinance was adopted in 2008, but after a while it was time to start revising the ordinance to meet the Community’s expanding usage of water.


The reclaimed water that is used for indirect recharge, where reclaimed water is placed into a surface basin for recharging underground aquifers, must meet a Category I (Cat I) water quality requirement.


A typical application of reuse is for agriculture, dust control and at golf courses like the Whirlwind Golf Course located in the Wild Horse Pass area.


The availability of Cat I highly treated reclaimed water allows farmers, under a permit from the DEQ, to utilize it for agricultural activities.


Category II is another type of reclaimed water that is mainly used for street cleaning and, in some situations, for dust control.


Due to the design of the Community’s irrigation system, reclaimed water is not available for residential uses.


Various water utility and environmental departments throughout the U.S., use the color purple on signage to identify where reclaimed water is coming from, such as an irrigation pipe, valve, from a water truck or a section of canal where reclaimed water is flowing.