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Active Management Area Water Supply - Effluent and Contamination Sites


Effluent, also referred to as reclaimed water, is a growing water supply in the AMA Planning Area, meeting approximately 4% of the annual supply during the 2001-2005 time-period. Since effluent production is tied directly to population, population growth generally leads to increased effluent supply. However, lack of infrastructure to deliver effluent to potential users is often a limiting factor. The Phoenix and Tucson AMAs generate the majority of the effluent in the planning area, which is used by agricultural, municipal and industrial sectors.  

Many municipalities and private entities in the planning area recharge effluent in permitted basins and streambeds. This storage earns recharge credits that can either be pumped from the ground through a permitted recovery well, or used towards assured water supply certificates or designations. The recharge option is often favored as a way of using effluent if direct use is not possible due to lack of a distribution system. 

Tubac Country Club

Golf course using effluent, Santa Cruz AMA

There is increasing interest in effluent as a water supply as population growth continues and other renewable water sources become more extensively used. Some communities, for example Tucson, Phoenix, Prescott and Scottsdale, have made substantial investments in effluent reuse.  Global Water Resources, a private water and wastewater utility, is promoting reuse technology at a new development in Maricopa where its water center uses non-potable water for irrigation and toilet flushing.

Most effluent in the Phoenix AMA is generated at the 91st Avenue WWTP.  In 2004 the treatment plant processed approximately 139,000 acre-feet of wastewater from Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe, who co-own the facility as part of  a multi-city partnership known as SROG, the Sub-regional Operating Group. A large portion of this effluent is used at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station for cooling purposes. The unused effluent is discharged into the Salt and Gila rivers, supporting perennial flow and flows out of the AMA.  Effluent is also a water supply for agricultural irrigation.  Effluent generated from Phoenix’s 23rd Avenue WWTP is used to irrigate crops in the Roosevelt Irrigation District and effluent from Chandler and Mesa are used for irrigation on the Gila River Indian Reservation.  Major cities in the Phoenix AMA also use effluent for landscape and golf course watering. 

In the Pinal AMA, Casa Grande, Coolidge, Eloy and Florence all have municipal WWTPs.  These plants deliver treated effluent for a variety of purposes, including agricultural irrigation, golf course watering, and power generation.  Florence and Eloy also have permitted underground storage facilities for recharging effluent.  The City of Maricopa’s wastewater needs are handled by a private utility (Global Water Resources) and the effluent is used for watering turf and filling subdivision lakes.  There are several other WWTPs in the AMA serving unincorporated communities.  Effluent from these facilities is used for golf course watering, and in some cases the excess is recharged at underground storage facilities (see Table 8.2-7).

Agricultural fields

Agricultural fields, Pinal AMA.  In the Pinal AMA, Casa Grande, Coolidge, Eloy and Florence all have municipal WWTPs. These plants deliver treated effluent for a variety of purposes, including agricultural irrigation, golf course watering, and power generation. 

Three communities in the Prescott AMA have permitted recharge facilities that store effluent: the City of Prescott, the Town of Prescott Valley and the Town of Chino Valley. Effluent availability in the Town of Chino Valley is currently limited as the Town is largely unsewered; however, it is in the process of constructing a centralized sewer system to serve new and existing developments. Effluent is a water supply both directly and through recharge and recovery for three golf courses, a community park, and a sand and gravel operation in Prescott, as well as for a golf course at Prescott Valley.  Effluent stored by the City of Prescott is recovered by CVID for agricultural irrigation and by the City of Prescott.  As of 2008 effluent stored by Prescott Valley has not been recovered.

The Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant (NIWWTP) is the primary treatment facility in the Santa Cruz AMA.  It treats over 16,000 acre-feet of sewage from both Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, and discharges the effluent to the Santa Cruz River where it supports riparian vegetation.  Several smaller “package” treatment plants provide treatment to developments within the AMA, but with the exception of the Tubac Golf Resort do not provide reused effluent.

Contamination Sites

Environmental contamination impacts the use of some water supplies in the AMAs.  An inventory of Department of Defense (DOD), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Superfund, Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund (WQARF), Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) and Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) sites was conducted for the planning area.  Table 8.0-9 provides a summary of active contamination sites, by cleanup program,  in each AMA.  Tables listing the contaminant and affected media as well as maps showing the location of all contamination sites can be found in the AMA Water Quality sections.

Table 8.0-9 Contamination sites in the AMA Planning Area

Table 8.0-9

In the AMA Planning Area there are 61 active VRP sites.  The majority (39) of these sites are located in the Phoenix AMA.  The VRP is a state administered and funded voluntary cleanup program.  Any site that has soil and/or groundwater contamination, provided that the site is not subject to an enforcement action by another program, is eligible to participate.  To encourage participation, ADEQ provides an expedited process and a single point of contact for projects that involve more than one regulatory program (Environmental Law Institute, 2002).

There are 13 RCRA sites in the AMA Planning Area, including nine in the Phoenix AMA, two in the Tucson AMA and one each in the Pinal and Santa Cruz AMAs.  The RCRA program regulates the management of hazardous waste handlers which includes generators, transporters and facilities for treatment, storage and disposal (ADEQ, 2002).  The 13 RCRA sites are corrective action sites where contamination of groundwater and/or soil has occurred due to improper handling of hazardous waste.

Two DOD sites are located in the AMA Planning Area; the 161st Air National Guard site in the Phoenix AMA and the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base site in the Tucson AMA.  Both contamination sites are located at active duty bases.

There are 19 WQARF sites and nine Superfund sites in the Phoenix, Tucson and Prescott AMAs.  WQARF is a state administered funding mechanism created to support hazardous substance cleanup efforts.  Superfund is the federal government’s program, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to clean up the most contaminated hazardous waste sites across the country. (ADEQ, 2008a) Almost all WQARF and Superfund sites in the planning area involve Trichloroethylene (TCE) and/or Tetrachloroethene (PCE) contamination. One Superfund site, the 19th Avenue Landfill in the Phoenix AMA, was removed from the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites in 2006 after the EPA and ADEQ determined that no further cleanup activities were necessary (ADEQ, 2006). There is one Superfund site in the Prescott AMA; the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter, a site contaminated with arsenic and lead.

Leaking underground storage tanks can pose a significant threat to groundwater quality and therefore to drinking water supplies. Regulations require that underground storage tanks be protected from spills, overfills, and corrosion. In 2008, there were 5,697 active LUST sites in the planning area.  Seventy-one percent of these sites are located in the Phoenix AMA and 20% are located in the Tucson AMA.


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