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Cultural Water Demand in the Eastern Plateau Planning Area - Industrial Demand

Cultural water demand includes four categories: Tribal, Municipal, Agricultural and Industrial. 

Industrial Demand

Industrial water demand in the planning area includes mining, electrical power generation, paper production, dairies and feedlots and golf course irrigation served by a facility water system. This demand is summarized in Table 2.0-13 for selected time periods. Industrial demand, particularly for power generation is a large cultural demand component in the planning area, representing about 49% of the total planning area demand during the 2001-2005 time period.

Mine water use includes sand and gravel operations, coal mines on Black Mesa south of Kayenta and historically, surface water diversions from Show Low Lake and Blue Ridge/C.C. Cragin Reservoir for mining use outside the planning area. These diversions ceased in 2002 and Phelps Dodge Corporation relinquished its certificated rights to both water sources in 2005. Peabody Western Coal  Company (PWCC) operates two mines on Black Mesa: the Black Mesa Coal Mine and the Kayenta Mine. Until recently, these mines annually shipped approximately 12 million tons per year of low-sulfur subbituminous coal and pumped approximately 4,400 AFA.  Over 3.8 million gallons of groundwater per day were required to slurry coal to the Mohave Generating Station (MGS) near Laughlin, Nevada. Coal is also sent to the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) at Page by rail (Grahame and Sisk, 2002).  By 2005, the 273-mile slurry pipeline ceased operation, in part because of Southern California Edison’s failure to upgrade pollution control devices at the MGS, as required by a lawsuit brought by a consortium of environmental groups. As a result of the closure, PWCC amended its mining permit application to the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was issued in November 2008. The proposed project would consolidate the operations of the Kayenta Mine and the adjacent Black Mesa Mine, which previously supplied coal to the MGS, under a single permit. Water use at the Black Mesa Complex would be reduced to an average of 1,236 acre-feet of N-aquifer water per year (OSMRE, 2008). In December 2008, OSM approved the project and issued a life-of-mine permit that would allow operations to continue until 2026. This decision is being appealed.

Table 2.0-13 Average annual industrial demand (in acre-feet)

  1991-1995 1996-2000 2001-2005
Type Water Use (acre-feet)
Mining Total
11,144 11,445 6,241
Surface water* 6,984 7,005 1,441
Groundwater** 4,160 4,440 4,800
Power Plant Total
52,918 56,943 63,279
Surface water 23,418 24,843 27,179
Groundwater 29,500 32,100 36,100
Golf course Total
1,266 1,326 1,596
Surface water 87 87 87
Groundwater 1,179 1,239 1,509
Dairy/Feedlot Total
472 524 546
Groundwater 472 524 546
Paper Mill Total
17,092 15,530 11,452
Groundwater 17,092 15,530 11,452
82,892 85,768 83,114
Sources: ADWR 2008c, USGS 2007

* Diverted pursuant to an exchange agreement between Phelps Dodge Corporation and the Salt River Valley Water Users Association.  Phelps Dodge provides water to SRP from Show Low Lake but this water is accounted for as water used by the Morenci Mine in the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area.

**  Includes water withdrawn from tribal lands by Peabody Coal

Figure 2.0-20 Average annual water

demand 2001-2005 by electrical

generating stations (in acre-feet)

Power Plant Water Use

Power plants include the Navajo Generating Station (Page), the Coronado Generating Station located six miles northeast of Saint Johns, the Springerville Station located northeast of Springerville and the Cholla Generating Station near Joseph City.  The NGS uses water from Lake Powell pursuant to an Upper Basin Colorado River contract which entitles it to receive up to 34,000 acre-feet of water per year.  In recent years about 27,200 AFA has been diverted for use at the NGS.  All other facilities pump groundwater.  Average annual demand by power plants for the period 2001-2005 is shown in Figure 2.0-20.

In addition to coal-fired power plants, the planning area has a solar system at the Springerville Generating Station, a biomass power plant that began operation in June 2008 at Snowflake and a second proposed biomass facility at Eagar.  A previous biomass plant at Eagar was closed in 2008. The Snowflake White Mountain Biomass 24-megawatt power plant uses woody waste and recycled paper fibers from the adjacent Catalyst Paper Co. paper mill (formerly the Abitibi paper mill).  Sources of woody waste are from forest thinning projects, small-diameter trees burned in the Rodeo-Chedeski fire and leftover wood from sawmills.  The plant supplies power locally and has long-term power-purchase agreements with Arizona Public Service Co. and Salt River Project.  The water demand of the plant is not known.

There are ten industrial golf courses in the planning area, including seven in the Pinetop-Lakeside/Show Low area. An annual average of about 1,600 acre-feet of primarily groundwater was used for industrial golf course irrigation during 2001-2005. Because of cooler temperatures, higher precipitation and short growing season, relatively little water is required for golf course irrigation at most locations.

During 2001-2005, an estimated 124,000 swine were raised annually at four feedlot facilities near Snowflake.  These feedlots have been in existence since the early 1980s.  In addition, a small dairy is located near Taylor.  Combined water demand by the dairy and feedlots is estimated at between 450 to 600 acre-feet of groundwater a year.

Located about 23 miles southwest of Holbrook, the Catalyst Paper Co. purchased the Abitibi paper mill in April 2008.  Waste water from the operation is discharged to Dry Lake and is used to irrigate primarily pasture east of SR 377.  In 2005, approximately 11,900 acre-feet of effluent was generated while 14,000 acre-feet of groundwater was pumped.  This suggests that about 85% of the annual groundwater withdrawal is recovered and used for irrigation.


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