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Cultural Water Demand in the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area - Municipal Demand

Total cultural water demand for tribal, municipal, agricultural and industrial uses in the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area averaged approximately 515,100 AFA in the period from 2001-2005. The agricultural demand sector is by far the largest water demand sector with over 440,000 acre-feet of demand (see Figure 3.0-16).  This is primarily due to agricultural demand in 4 basins Willcox, Safford, Duncan Valley and Douglas, which account for 410,600 acre-feet, or 95% of the agricultural demand. About one-fifth of the agricultural demand is met with surface water. 

Figure 3.0-16 Southeastern Arizona Planning Area Average Annual

Cultural Water Demand by sector, 2001-2005

Cultural Water Demand


Main Street Douglas

Main Street Douglas

Groundwater is the primary water supply for municipal use throughout the planning area. Average annual municipal water demand for the period 2001-2005 is summarized by groundwater basin in Table 3.0-9.  There is little population or municipal demand in a number of basins in the planning area including Aravaipa Canyon, Bonita Creek, Donnelly Wash, Dripping Springs Wash, San Bernardino Valley and the San Rafael basins.  As shown, almost half of the municipal demand in the planning area is in the Upper San Pedro Basin.  Municipal demand centers discussed here include: City of Douglas, Town of Duncan, Town of San Manuel, Town of Kearny, Clifton & Morenci, Safford, Thatcher & Pima, City of Bisbee, City of Sierra Vista & Fort Huachuca, City of Benson and City of Willcox.

Only 13 water providers in the planning area served 450 acre-feet or more in 2006. These providers and their demand in selected years are shown in Table 3.0-10 and discussed below. Municipal gallon per capita per day (gpcd) rates are estimated to be about 125 gpcd in San Manuel, 157 gpcd in the Benson area, 168 gpcd in the Sierra Vista area, 177 gpcd in Safford, and 225 gpcd in Douglas.  For more information on gpcd and annual water demand by community water systems in this planning area see ADWR's Community Water System Program annual water use reporting summary.


Table 3.0-9 Municipal Demand in the Southeastern

Arizona Planning Area

Basin Groundwater Surface Water Effluent* Total
Aravaipa Canyon <300 0 0 150
Bonita Creek** <300 0 0 150
Cienega Creek 600 0 0 600
Donnelly Wash <300 0 0 150
Douglas 5,500 0 0 5,500
Dripping Springs Wash <300 0 0 150
Duncan Valley 600 0 0 600
Lower San Pedro 2,300 300 145 2,745
Morenci 1,400 600 0 2,000
Safford** 6,500 0 500 7,000
San Bernardino Valley <300 0 0 150
San Rafael <300 0 0 150
Upper San Pedro 17,300 <300 830 18,280
Willcox 2,700 <300 211 3,061
Total Municipal 37,800 <1,500 1,686 40,686
Notes:  Volume <300 acre-feet assumed to be 150 acre-feet for computation purposes.
*Data on effluent demand is taken from effluent use for golf courses in 2005/2006.
**Shown on Table 3.0-10 is water utilized within the basin.  The Cultural Demand Table for Bonita Creek in Section 3.2.8 reflects water withdrawn in the basin.  Most of the approximately 3,200 acre-feet withdrawn in the Bonita Creek Basin is conveyed to the Safford Basin.

Most of the population in the planning area is served by private water companies.  Municipal water utilities have more flexibility in setting water rates than private water companies, which are regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission.  In addition, municipal utilities have the authority to enact water conservation ordinances.  These authorities enable municipal utilities to better manage water resources within water service areas.  Water provider issues are discussed in section 3.0.8.

Provisions of the Settlement Agreement described above include individual agreements with the City of Safford and with the Towns of Duncan, Kearny, and Mammoth to resolve disputes regarding use of water for municipal and industrial purposes.  These agreements set limits on future annual water use although actual use can exceed these limits under certain conditions and/or by implementing mitigation measures. (ADWR, 2006)

City of Douglas

The border community of Douglas has a population of about 17,700 residents and served 3,880 acre-feet of groundwater in 2006. It was founded as a site for a smelter to treat the copper ore mined at Bisbee. Agriculture, ranching and international commerce are important economic activities. Agua Prieta, Sonora is located directly south of Douglas and has a population of over 110,000 residents.

Douglas is served by a municipal water utility that operates eight wells. In 2006 it delivered about 3,560 acre-feet to more than 5,000 residential connections and 320 acre-feet to about 450 commercial connections. The Douglas WWTF treats about 1,400 acre-feet of wastewater to secondary standards.  The wastewater is discharged to Whitewater Draw just north of the international boundary and flows south into Mexico where it is used for agricultural irrigation. There are no plans to utilize effluent in Douglas due to the quality of the water and the historic commitment to deliver the effluent to Mexico.

Northeast of Douglas, the Bisbee-Douglas International Airport Water system serves about 400 acre-feet of groundwater withdrawn from 2 wells to the Arizona State Prison Complex-Douglas. The facility housed approximately 2,300 inmates in December, 2008 (ADC, 2008).


Town of Duncan

Duncan, with a population of about 800 residents, is located along the Gila River just west of the New Mexico border. Primary economic activities in the area are farming, cattle ranching and mining. Duncan is served by a municipal provider consisting of two systems; Town of Duncan and Town of Duncan-Hunter Water. In 2006 it withdrew a combined total of 628 acre-feet from three wells. Withdrawals are estimated from electrical records and are much higher than the amount of water reported as delivered on Community Water System Reports; 125 acre-feet.

Table 3.0-10 Water Providers Serving 450 acre-feet or more of water in 2006, excluding effluent, in the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area

Basin/Water Provider







Douglas Water Department
Duncan Valley
Town of Duncan
Lower San Pedro
Arizona Water Company San Manuel
Town of Kearny
Morenci Water and Electric
Gila Resources - Safford
Graham County Utilities, Inc - Pima 
Upper San Pedro
Arizona Water Company Bisbee

Arizona Water

Company Sierra Vista

Bella Vista Water Company - Sierra Vista
City of Benson
Pueblo del Sol Water Company - Sierra Vista

 *Includes 120 acre-feet delivered to Arizona State Prison - San Jose

Town of San Manuel

San Manuel is an unincorporated community built in 1953 as a company town to serve the San Manuel copper mine, mill and smelter complex. Both the mine and smelter were permanently closed in 2003. Approximately 4,400 residents resided in San Manuel in 2000. The town is now considered a bedroom community with some commercial businesses (ADOC, 2008a). Arizona Water Company receives water from BHP Copper Company to serve approximately 1,500 residential and 70 non-residential connections. In 2006 it received 646 acre-feet from BHP Copper and delivered 582 acre-feet to customers. Santec Corporation operates Coronado Utilities WWTP that serves the community.  Approximately 291 AFA is generated at the facility and discharged to infiltration basins. The 9-hole San Manuel Golf Course uses water pumped from a facility well, not from Arizona Water Company.

Kearny Golf Club

Kearny Golf Club, Lower San Pedro Basin.

Town of Kearny

Located in the northern part of the Lower San Pedro Basin, Kearny was a planned community built in 1958 for workers at the Kennecott Copper Company open pit mine and reduction plant, now operated by the American Smelting and Refining Company, which also operates smelters at Kearny and Hayden. The Town had a population of 2,270 in 2006.  It withdrew 126 acre-feet of groundwater and diverted 357 acre-feet of surface water from the Gila River pursuant to the Globe Equity Decree in 2006. In that year it delivered 435 acre-feet of water to 821 residential and 71 commercial connections. The Kearny Water Reclamation Facility generated 190 acre-feet of effluent in 2006.  Of this, 145 acre-feet was delivered to the 9-hole Kearny Golf Course and 45 acre-feet to a wetland.


Towns of Clifton/Morenci

Morenci Water and Electric serves the communities of Clifton and Morenci, which were established in the late 1980’s as mining towns. These communities had a combined population of 4,306 in 2006 and population is declining due to a decrease in mining activity, the principal economic activity in the area.  In 2006, Morenci Water and Electric withdrew 274 acre-feet of groundwater and diverted 519 acre-feet of surface water from Eagle Creek. About three-quarters of its deliveries (559 acre-feet) were to residential customers.  Both communities are served by treatment plants but data from the Morenci WWTF was not available (Table 3.9-9).


These incorporated towns along the Gila River were established in the 1870s and 1880s as farming communities. Agriculture remains the primary economic activity although retail, education, retirement and mining are also important. Safford is the Graham County seat and Thatcher is the location of Eastern Arizona College.  The City of Safford Water Utility (formerly Gila Resources) serves both Safford and Thatcher. In 2006, it withdrew 4,720 acre-feet of groundwater from nine wells, of which almost 3,300 was water from Bonita Springs in the Bonita Creek Basin, and served 2,521 residential and 1,180 non-residential connections. The City of Safford WWTP generated 1,226 acre-feet of effluent in 2006 and delivered 483 acre-feet to the Mt. Graham Municipal Golf Course. Graham County Utilities operates two systems; one serves the small community of Fort Thomas and the other serves the community of Pima (pop. 2080). In 2006 the Pima system withdrew 416 acre-feet of groundwater, of which 62 acre-feet was delivered to Eden Utilities. Ninety-two percent of the Pima system deliveries are to residential customers.

City of Bisbee

Arizona Water Company serves the community of Bisbee, the Cochise County seat located in the Mule Mountains that straddles the border of the Upper San Pedro and Douglas basins. A former mining town, Bisbee is a well-known artist’s community with preserved historic architecture that makes it a popular tourist destination. Bisbee consists of historic Old Bisbee, Warren, Lowell, and San Jose with a combined 2006 population of 6,355.  San Jose is located on the southern side of the Mule Mountains and is the location of the Arizona Water Company well field that serves the community. In 2006 Arizona Water Company withdrew 1,131 acre-feet of water from 4 wells. Approximately 70% of water deliveries are to residential customers.

Old Bisbee

Old Bisbee

San Jose is also the location of an updated and expanded wastewater treatment plant that consolidated three separate systems (Old Bisbee, Warren and San Jose) in 2006. Prior to consolidation, effluent from Old Bisbee (approximately 130,000 gpd) had been discharged into the Douglas Basin via Mule Gulch. Approximately 4,900 acre-feet of effluent is treated annually at the plant. The Bisbee sewer collection system is also undergoing improvements and a substantial number of residents on septic systems will be connected to the sewer system. Bisbee effluent is slated to be delivered to the Turquoise Valley Golf Course in 2009 and the remainder discharged to Greenbush Draw. The Turquoise Valley Golf Course is an industrial facility.



City of Sierra Vista

City of Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca

City of Sierra Vista/Fort Huachuca

Sierra Vista is the population center of southeastern Arizona with an economy closely tied to Fort Huachuca, with more than 11,000 military and civilian employees (ADOC, 2008b). Three large private water companies, as well as several small systems, serve Sierra Vista. The large systems are Arizona Water Company (AWC)-Sierra Vista, Bella Vista Water Company and Pueblo del Sol (PDS) Water Company.  The 2006 population of Sierra Vista, which includes Fort Huachuca within its city limits, was 44,870 but the area population is much larger with more than 16,500 residents in the Sierra Vista SE CDP in 2006 (Table 3.0-5). Bella Vista is the largest water provider, consisting of two systems, Bella Vista City and Bella Vista South. The City system withdrew 3,399 acre-feet of groundwater from 18 wells in 2006 and delivered 1,756 acre-feet to residential customers and 1,456 acre-feet to non-residential connections. The South system withdrew 195 acre-feet from 12 wells and delivered 176.5 acre-feet to primarily residential customers. PDS serves primarily residential customers (90% of deliveries) and delivered a small amount of water (11 acre-feet) to the Pueblo del Sol Golf Course in 2006. Most of the irrigation needs at this course are met by facility wells, therefore it is considered an industrial facility. In 2006 PDS withdrew 1,501 acre-feet of groundwater from four wells. AWC –Sierra Vista withdrew 1,262 acre-feet of water from seven wells and delivered almost 1,000 acre-feet to residential customers in 2006. Another 175 acre-feet was delivered to non-residential customers.

The City of Sierra Vista Water Reclamation Facility produces approximately 2,800 AFA. The Facility was permitted in August 2001 to store up to 4,149 acre-feet of effluent per year for 20 years. Located east of the City, recharge is intended to mitigate any impact of groundwater pumping in the Sierra Vista area on the flow of the San Pedro River. Between 2002 and 2007 a total of approximately 10,700 acre-feet of effluent was recharged at the Sierra Vista facility. 

Fort Huachuca is a large military installation located at the base of the Huachuca Mountains. Established in 1877, it has a fluctuating population of approximately 8,400. In 2007, 1,414 acre-feet of groundwater was withdrawn from 8 wells to serve the residential and non-residential needs of the installation. The Fort Huachuca WWTP treated 661 acre-feet of effluent in 2007 and delivered 318 acre-feet for landscape and golf course irrigation (Chaffee Parade Field and Mountain View Golf Course) and recharged the remaining 343 acre-feet in a constructed recharge facility. Fort Huachuca and the City of Huachuca City have entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement in which the Fort has agreed to accept wastewater from Huachuca City and to recharge it to the aquifer (USPP, 2007).  The annual volume of effluent produced at Huachuca City is approximately 150 acre-feet.


City of Benson

The City of Benson, founded in 1880, began as a transportation center, with a Butterfield Overland Stage station house on the San Pedro River in the 1870s and construction of rail lines that linked Benson to Mexico, California and the East. Copper and silver from the mines at Bisbee and Tombstone were shipped from the Southern Pacific Railroad station in Benson (City of Benson, 2009).  When mining declined and the rail center moved to Tucson, ranching became the predominant industry. Benson is now a growing community and has expanded its city limits and water service area to serve large master-planned residential developments to the southwest.

The City of Benson, with a 2006 population of 4,800, is served by a municipal utility that withdrew 878 acre-feet of groundwater from five wells that year. Most of its deliveries were to non-residential customers (401 acre-feet), with 361 acre-feet delivered to residences. The City of Benson WWTP treated 762 acre-feet of effluent in 2006 and delivered 470 acre-feet of effluent to the 18-hole San Pedro Golf Course.

City of Willcox

Willcox is an agricultural and ranching center established in 1880 and incorporated in 1915. It is served by a municipal water utility that withdrew water from one potable well for domestic deliveries and from several non-potable wells for other uses in 2006. One of the non-potable wells is used for construction purposes due to high fluoride levels. Another well is used for cemetery irrigation and the third is located close to effluent-dependent Cochise Lake and is used to maintain water levels for migratory birds (City of Willcox, 2006). In 2006, 856 acre-feet of water was withdrawn from the potable well and a total of the potable and non-potable withdrawals, 394 acre-feet was delivered to residential customers, 547 acre-feet to commercial customers and 22 acre-feet to turf.  From the non-potable wells 148 acre-feet were withdrawn.

The City of Willcox WWTP produced 492 acre-feet of effluent in 2006, of which 197 acre-feet was delivered to the Twin Lakes Golf Course.

There are several golf courses in the planning area that are served from a municipal water supply.  They are shown in Table 3.0-11 with estimated demand and source of water. If actual demand was not available, estimates were made that account for the elevation of the facility and duration of the irrigation season.  This demand is included in the municipal demand total.


Main Street Willcox

Main Street Willcox


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