Carefree Water

The Carefree Water Company is stepping up its water conservation efforts by asking customers to cut back and initiating a multistep, long-term plan to help ensure an adequate supply of water in an increasingly dry future.

“Our customers have always been conservation minded — we live in a desert,” said Greg Crossman, general manager of the Carefree Water Company. “But this drought has really exemplified that we need to dial our water conservation practices up a level, just to make sure that we’re using water wisely not only in Carefree, but throughout the Valley.”

To conserve water, the Carefree Water Company is challenging all customers to cut their water usage by a minimum of 10%. Crossman said one simple way to meet this goal is by monitoring irrigation timers. If the drip system is set to come on for 20 minutes, he said to reset it for 18 minutes. This one action will reduce outdoor water usage by 10% and plants will hardly tell the difference.

Crossman added that as much as 70% of water usage comes from irrigation systems and outdoor use, which is why he is encouraging customers to focus on cutting back on that aspect of water usage.

There are other quick and easy things people can do to help conserve water. Crossman said these are really “common sense” things like turning the water off when brushing teeth and making sure the washing machine or dishwasher is full before running it. People can also go so far as to get water-efficient appliances.

Crossman said the Carefree Water Company has two primary water sources: an allocation of CAP water, which comes from the Colorado River, and the groundwater aquifer in Carefree. According to Crossman, the town’s aquifer has a little over 17,000-acre-feet of water stored in it, and Carefree uses about 1,000-acre-feet per year. Crossman emphasized it is never expected to have to rely solely on the aquifer, but there is enough there to support the town for about 17 years.

The more severe problem is that the drought has taken a massive toll on the Colorado River, and will continue to do so. Preparations have to be made for the eventuality that Colorado River water deliveries get cut back. However, Crossman said local and state officials are aware of this and have done some good planning. The Arizona Water Banking Authority has been storing water to help mitigate some of the pull of groundwater when Colorado River supplies are cut.

“Is there a potential for cutbacks in the future? Yes. Are there things in place that would help mitigate that? Yes,” Crossman said. “So that’s what we’re all looking at is how much cutbacks are we going to have to do in the future and in what ways can we make sure that we keep our customers in water. And the more we save now, the longer the supplies last.”

The Carefree Water Company doesn’t just want to rely on others to do the long-term planning, though. Carefree Town Council, which also serve as the board of directors of the Carefree Water Company, implemented an integrated, multistep plan to help assure an adequate supply of water for all of the town’s water customers. This long-term effort could take as long as 20-plus years to complete, but it has the potential to produce a viable and cost-effective source of water in a dryer future. The plan has two major parts: integrating all water accounts into a single system and providing adequate sources of water supply.

The first component is something that has been in the works since 2017. All remaining Carefree residents, specifically those in the south and west portions of town, are scheduled to be under the Carefree Water Company by the end of 2022.

The second component will take several years to come to fruition. Carefree draws its water supply from CAP, which comes from the Colorado River, and the town’s aquifer. Grossman said the goal is to create a partnership with the Salt River Project (SRP), which draws its water from the Salt and Verde Rivers, to access a third water supply. According to Grossman, SRP water has typically been unavailable to Carefree, but a project increasing the size of Bartlett Dam could change that.

“This long-term planning that we’re doing that we’ve talked about with our board recently is to look at how we can expand our water portfolio, and maybe take a look at some resources here locally,” Grossman explained.

“Right now, SRP and Bureau of Reclamation are looking at the potential of doing dam modifications on the Verde River at Bartlett dam, which could generate a water supply. We’re hoping to partner with them to really start looking at the feasibility of doing that. That just gives us another source of renewable water supplies that we hope could pan out in the future.”

The Carefree Water Company will formalize some of these planning arrangements at upcoming meetings. For more information, visit carefreewaterco.com.