What Is A + Reclaimed Water and What Is It Used For?
October 7, 2016
Communications & Public Affairs Office
Gila River Indian Community
Under the Community’s water settlement the Community can receive over 45,000 acre-feet of Mesa and Chandler A+ reclaimed water at no cost to the Community. Under exchange agreements, for every 4 acre-feet of Central Arizona Project (CAP) water the Community exchanges, it receives 5 acre-feet of A+ reclaimed water at no costs. This exchange reduces the Community’s overall water costs associated with on-reservation farming.
CAP water comes from the Colorado River and contains reclaimed water also – most notably Las Vegas, Nevada’s wastewater that is treated and then discharged into the Colorado River.
Because CAP water has to be delivered over such a long distance it is very expensive to use this water. The Community only uses CAP water for irrigating farms and groundwater recharge. The Community does not use any of its CAP water for drinking but instead uses groundwater from specific areas within the Community.
A+ reclaimed water is the highest quality recycled wastewater that has been highly treated and can be safely discharged into streams or directly used for irrigation. Like any other renewable water source—including CAP, Salt River, and Gila River surface water—reclaimed water cannot be used as drinking water without further treatment and testing. Phoenix metropolitan cities are using much of their reclaimed water to irrigate parks, golf courses, and other public facilities.
Under the water settlement Chandler and Mesa are required to comply with strict standards to insure that the Community receives the highest quality reclaimed water. In addition, the Community’s Department of Environmental Quality tests the reclaimed water the Community receives. Chandler and Mesa are also required to report documentation of testing and monitoring of the water to both the Community’s and Arizona’s Departments of Environmental Quality.
The treatment process for reclaimed water is highly engineered and the water is treated for safety and reliability so that the quality of the water is much more predictable than many existing surface water sources, including the CAP, Gila River, and Salt River water. A recent agreement with Chandler increases the amount of water being exchanged under the existing agreement but the same water quality standards must be satisfied.
In theory, the reclaimed water can be used anywhere in the Community. However, since the water comes into the Community on the north side of the Gila River in the middle of District 4, it can only be used in Districts 4 and 6 where reclaimed water has already been used for several years. Reclaimed water provided under the water settlement has been used in District 4 Santan Ranches since 2009 and in District 6 (Broadacres) since 2010.
The Community’s agreements with Chandler and Mesa are important in sustaining the Community’s agricultural economy. CAP water is very expensive and costs more each year.
By exchanging some of its expensive CAP water for no cost reclaimed water, the Community can meet the irrigation demands of Community growers and keep overall water costs lower.