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Where does your water come from: A look at Gilbert and Chandler's water supplies

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Posted at 6:33 PM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 21:33:26-04

CHANDLER, AZ — Just a few days ago the water sitting at Gilbert's North Water Treatment Plant was sitting in Saguaro Lake.

"You might have water skied on it over the weekend," said Eric Braun, Assistant Director of Gilbert Public Works.

The facility treats 45 million gallons of water per day from the Salt and Verde River via Salt River Project (SRP) making it ready to drink for the portion of the town's customers that are entitled to water from SRP.

The plant, located at Higley and Guadalupe roads, has been under reconstruction and expansion since March 2022 with scheduled completion in December 2027. The expansion is expected to increase capacity to 60 million gallons of water per day.

Braun said a second treatment plant, San Tan Vista, treats water from the Colorado River which is delivered by Central Arizona Project.  It is co-owned with the City of Chandler.  It has the capacity to treat 48 million gallons of water per day.

SRP water accounts for 33% of Gilbert's water supply. 29% comes from the Colorado River, groundwater makes up 23% and 15% is from highly treated wastewater or recycled water.

"Gilbert reuses 100% of the water that we receive back through our wastewater system," Braun told ABC15.

Half the recycled water is delivered for landscape, the rest is used to recharge the aquifer.

Much of Gilbert's Colorado River allotment also ends up stored in the ground.

"We've stored over 500,000 acre-feet of water underground for our future use," Braun said. "If we had no new renewable water supplies in a year, for Gilbert, we can extend that groundwater supply for nearly a decade."

It's a supply the town is hoping not to have to tap into for a long time. To help with that, Gilbert recently declared stage one of its drought management plan.

The first stage largely calls for resident education and getting people to conserve voluntarily.

But Braun said as CAP cuts get deeper each year cities will only be able to do so much.

"Cities alone cannot make that up. It's going to take a partnership from agriculture, from industry, and from municipal water users," he said.

Neighboring city Chandler also recently activated the first stage of its drought management plan due to ongoing drought and shortages of CAP water.

CAP accounts for 37% of Chandler's water supply. 57% comes from SRP and 6% is groundwater.

Chandler is also storing considerable amounts of water, according to water resources advisor Simone Kjolsrud.

"We've been storing water underground for decades. And so just for times like this, where there might be drought or surface water shortages," she said.

One of its recharge facilities doubles as Veterans Oasis Park, which has ponds designed so water slowly seeps into the ground.

To keep more of that water in the ground conservation coordinator Deina Burns works to inform current and new residents how to use less of it.

"The desert is so different than anywhere else in the country. And people come here and they want to water every day, because that's what they did, wherever they came from," Burns said. "Our soils hold water really great; they make a great, it's almost like a gas tank, you fill it up, and then you leave alone for a while."

And as more cuts loom, her job and her message become even more important.

"We live in the desert we want you to conserve like you mean it we want you to do this all the time," Burns said.