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Water Supply of the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area - Effluent and Contamination Sites

Water supply of the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area includes Surface Water, Groundwater and Effluent.  Local aquifers are the primary water supply for the planning area for municipal, industrial and agricultural use as shown in Figure 3.0-13.  Approximately 15% of the cultural water demand is served by surface water.  Most of the surface water is for agricultural use, and includes diversion from the San Pedro River, Aravaipa Creek and the Gila River. Gila River diversions are substantial, accounting for 92% of all surface water diversions in the planning area during the period 2001-2005. Small amounts of surface water are diverted for municipal use in the Morenci, Upper San Pedro and Willcox Basins and for industrial use in the Morenci Basin.  Some communities utilize effluent for golf course irrigation and for groundwater recharge.  Sites of environmental contamination may impact the availability of water supplies in some locations.

Effluent is utilized as a water supply in the Lower San Pedro, Safford, Upper San Pedro, and Willcox basins for golf course irrigation, industrial processes and groundwater recharge. An average of approximately 1,700 acre-feet of effluent was used annually for golf course irrigation, and an unknown quantity was used for mining purposes at the Morenci Mine during the period 2001-2005. Effluent is recharged to the aquifer in the Upper San Pedro Basin. Over 10,600 acre-feet of effluent is estimated to be produced annually, with about half of it generated in the Upper San Pedro Basin.

Water supply

Figure 3.0-13 Water Supply Used in the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area

Recharge at Fort Huachua

Recharge at Fort Huachuca approximately 2,380

acre-feet of effluent was recharged to the aquifer

at Fort Huachuca and at the Sierra Vista

Recharge Facility in 2005

In the Upper San Pedro Basin, about 800 acre-feet of effluent from the Fort Huachuca and Benson Wastewater Treatment Plants was delivered for golf course irrigation and approximately 2,380 acre-feet of effluent was recharged to the aquifer at Fort Huachuca and at the Sierra Vista Recharge Facility in 2005 (USGS, 2007).  By 2007, over 10,700 acre-feet had been recharged at the Sierra Vista Facility. Beginning in 2009, the Turquoise Valley Golf Course will begin receiving approximately 100 AFA of effluent from the City of Bisbee San Jose Wastewater Treatment Facility. The unused remainder will be discharged to Greenbush Draw.

Elsewhere, effluent is used to irrigate the Mt. Graham Golf Course in the Safford Basin, the Kearny Golf Course in the Lower San Pedro Basin and the Twin Lakes Golf Course in the Willcox Basin. At some treatment plants, wastewater is applied to pasture as a disposal method; for example from the Safford WWTF.

There are two effluent treatment wetlands located in the Upper San Pedro Basin. The wetland at the Apache Nitrogen Products facility was constructed as part of the Superfund clean-up and the wetland at the Sierra Vista Treatment Plant is operated in conjunction with the recharge facility.

Contamination Sites

Sites of environmental contamination may impact the availability of water supplies.  An inventory of Department of Defense (DOD), Superfund (Environmental Protection Agency designated sites), Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund (WQARF, state designated sites), Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) and Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) sites was conducted for the planning area.

Table 3.0-8 lists the DOD, Superfund, VRP and WQARF sites, the contaminant and affected media and the basin location of the site.  In addition, there are 203 active Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) sites in the planning area, most of which are located in the Safford Basin (38), the Upper San Pedro Basin (81) and the Willcox Basin (32). The location of all contamination sites is shown on Figure 3.0-15.

There are nine active VRP sites in the planning area. All sites in the Douglas and Morenci basins are associated with mining-related activities.  The only other site is a fuel oil contamination site at San Simon in the Safford Basin.  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)

Click to view Figure 3.0-15
Table 3.0-8 Contamination Sites in the Southeastern Arizona Planning Area
Department of Defense (DOD) Sites
Fort Huachuca Groundwater and soil – leaking underground storage tanks and solid waste disposal Upper San Pedro
Safford Military Range Soil-lead Safford
Federal National Priority List (Superfund Sites)
Apache Powder Groundwater-arsenic, fluoride, nitrate, perchlorate Upper San Pedro
Surface water-dinitoglycerine (DNT)
Soil – arsenic, barium, metals, nitrate, vanadium pentoxide, trinitroglycerine (TNT)
Voluntary Remediation Sites
Arizona Copper Co Soil – metals and solvents Morenci
Bisbee Smelter Soil and groundwater – metals Douglas
Clifton School – Phelps Dodge Soil - smelter fallout metals Morenci
Douglas Parcel 408-18-025C Soil – arsenic and copper Douglas
Firebird Fuel Spill Soil - Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl Benzene, Xylene (BTEX) Douglas
Jobbing Warehouse Soil – arsenic, lead and copper Douglas
Phelps Dodge American Avenue Soil – metals Douglas
Shannon Hills Smelter Soil – mine tailings, arsenic and copper Morenci
Union Pacific Railroad San Simon Depot Bunker C fuel oil Safford
Klondyke Tailings Groundwater, surface water and soil - metals Aravaipa Canyon

The Apache Powder Superfund site located about 2.5 miles southwest of Saint David in the Upper San Pedro Basin is the only Superfund site in the planning area.  Apache Nitrogen Products (ANP) Inc., formerly known as Apache Powder Company, owns and operates a fertilizer and nitric acid manufacturing plant at the site.  Soil, groundwater and surface water contamination has occurred due to past manufacturing and disposal practices at the site.  Sampling has identified a nitrate plume affecting both groundwater and a short reach of the San Pedro River.  Additional contaminants of concern include arsenic, fluoride, perchlorate and metals.  Cleanup efforts to date include removal of waste barrels and contaminated soils, and construction of a treatment wetland. A future cleanup schedule has been developed by ANP and remedial activities are being coordinated with the EPA and ADEQ (ADWR, 2005a).

The Klondyke Tailings WQARF site consists of two piles of mine tailings adjacent to Aravaipa Creek approximately 4.5 miles upstream of the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Area. ADEQ has completed several studies, groundwater and soil sampling and geophysical surveys to identify the presence of buried tanks or drums at the site.  In response to significant flooding in July 2006, ADEQ conducted a floodplain analysis and installed erosion protection and capping of the upper tailings pile in 2008. (ADEQ, 2008)

DOD Installation Restoration Program funding has supported environmental cleanup of contaminated soils at Fort Huachuca in the Upper San Pedro Basin.  Groundwater monitoring wells have been installed at the South Range Landfill and East Range Mine Shaft to monitor contamination. Groundwater contamination has not been identified.  These sites are part of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) cleanup program. (ADWR, 2005a)


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