As a crucial Tucson City Council discussion nears on the proposed Community Water Co. and Farmers Investment Co. water pipelines, advocates on both sides are sharpening their talking points.
In the first piece, Community Water tries to distance itself from Rosemont Copper -- whose parent company has pledged to finance CWC's $25 million pipeline. In a separate piece, the mine opposition group Save the Scenic Santa Ritas tries to push the CWC project as close to Rosemont as possible. The CWC pipeline, and a separate one proposed by Farmers Investment Co., would both carry Central Arizona Project water into the Green Valley area.
The council will discuss this knotty issue in study session on Tuesday, sometime after 1 p.m. in the 1st floor council chambers in City Hall, 250 W. Alameda St.
Not discussed in any detail in these screeds is a key question, maybe THE key question: How much of an impact will Community Water's pipeline, and FICO's, for that matter, have on the falling Green Valley-area aquifer?
In the end, that will depend mainly on how many clients the water and pecan companies can line up to use the lines besides themselves.
In the long run, the impacts could be big. The two 36-inch-diameter lines each can carry more than 30,000 acre-feet of water. By comparison, FICO currently has legal access to about 3,900 acre-feet--an acre-foot being enough for two to three households over a year's time. CWC has access to about 2,800 acre feet.
But after five years of planning, the water company and FICO have no other clients signed up, although mining giant Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold has indicated it's interested in FICO's project.
Community Water and FICO say they are talking with the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District, a three-county agency that recharges CAP water to compensate for pumping by other parties for development.
With FICO, "There are others we're not at liberty to mention," FICO president Dick Walden says. "They are waiting for us to be sure we have a viable project with connection to the pipe."
Community Water is waiting until they get connected to the existing CAP line approved before making a serious effort to line up other contractors, CWC Board Chairman Virgil Davis says.
"I don't want to get into the names. We have other parties that would be very interested -- other mines, other individuals that want to use it," says Raul Pina, project manager for CWC's pipeline. "We haven’t formalized any commitments that we need to get this thing going, but there’s interest."
But both pipeline proponents say they expect to get clients when and if the City Council decides to sign them up.
Until that happens, these projects' impact on the aquifer, while more than nothing, will not be that big.
Here's Community Water's take, from board chairman Davis:
Project Renews is not about Community Water. It is not about FICO and the local mines. It certainly is not about Rosemont Copper.
It is about Water and Neighbors.
Project Renews is about bringing CAP water to the Green Valley area and having direct access by Community Water. Why is this important? Our area neighbor to the north, the City of Tucson, has pursued development of substantial CAP water recharge facilities and the City of Tucson is approaching safe yield, as mandated by the 1980 Arizona Ground Water Act.
However, our local neighbors, including a major agricultural enterprise and two mining companies, are responsible for 80 percent of the ground water pumping in our area—the Upper Santa Cruz River basin. The resulting ground water over pumping has been going on since the early 1900s in the case of agriculture, and the early 1950s in the case of the mines.
As a result, the Upper Santa Cruz River basin accounts for the majority of the Tucson AMA shortfall in meeting safe yield. In late 2007, six local water companies and the agricultural and mining interests formed The Upper Santa Cruz Users and Providers Group.
This group is now developing the relationships needed to address the severe ground water over pumping that exists in the Upper Santa Cruz River basin—a major part of the local Green Valley environment we live in. Rosemont Copper came on the scene in early 2006 and indicated that they planned to pump ground water for their project from the Upper Santa Cruz River basin.
To their credit, they also committed to recharge an equivalent amount of CAP water somewhere in the Tucson AMA—most likely 40 miles downstream at Marana. As we all know, ADWR has issued Rosemont permits to pump ground water for their planned project and they are the first mining company in southern Arizona to voluntarily commit to replenishment of the ground water that they pump.
Now, let’s review the situation at that time. Rosemont is permitted to pump ground water from the Green Valley area and they have committed to recharge an equivalent amount of CAP water in the Tucson AMA, likely 40 miles downstream.
There is no pipeline to Green Valley and there is no recharge in Green Valley. Nada!
Where did the pipeline and recharge facility come from? It came from Community Water! This is a Community Water project that we now know is funded by Augusta Resource Corporation, the parent company of Rosemont Copper.
Community Water proposed a pipeline project and recharge facility to Augusta that would bring their CAP replenishment water to Green Valley. After extensive discussions Augusta, in 2007, committed to fund this project and they have supported it fully.
Connecting Community Water’s Project Renews to the existing CAP water pipeline will not advance the Rosemont Copper project. The Bureau of Reclamation’s approved Environmental Assessment for the Community Water project clearly demonstrated that there is no connection between Project Renews and the Rosemont Copper project in that (a) Development of Project Renews does not result in approval of the Rosemont Project, (b) Rosemont has committed to fund Community Water’s Project Renews regardless of the approval status of the Rosemont Project plan, and (c) Project Renews has utility separate from the Rosemont Project and is not legally required for Rosemont to meet its stated commitment to recharge water in the Tucson AMA.
Project Renews stands on its own as a water project vital to the Tucson AMA. Project Renews is a good deal for everyone—Community Water and our neighbors including Rosemont, Town of Sahuarita, FICO, City of Tucson, and CAP. Why?
It brings water to the Upper Santa Cruz River for the first time in history; a direct benefit to all of the people living in the Upper Santa Cruz River basin! We look forward to water deliveries through the Community Water and FICO connections to the existing CAP water pipeline.
Now, here's Save the Scenic Santa Ritas' commentary:
Unbelievably, Rosemont Copper and its partners Community Water Company of Green Valley (CWC) are requesting the City of Tucson to allow it to connect to a CAP water pipeline Tucson taxpayers own.