Even so, he embraces the city's drought plan, which writes off an entire stretch of one of the most productive aquifers in the Valley.

Brown says the city can get by without its TCE-polluted groundwater, even in a hundred-year drought. In times of severe drought, he says, the city would have to rely on groundwater for 30 percent of its total supply. If wells are shut down by TCE, he says, the city can drill wells in the northern Valley, where there is a clean aquifer.

Of course, at today's prices that would cost citizens $1 million per well.
And the aquifer in the northern part of the Valley is not nearly as productive as the aquifer underlying Phoenix, says Wes Steiner.

Mostly, though, the city trusts an abundant supply of water from distant rivers and the technology that will bring it to the desert.

Incredibly, should a severe drought hit, the city is prepared to run pipes--at the taxpayers' expense--from a $30 million "water ranch" in Salome, some 100 miles to the west, to Phoenix.

Other water from distant places--surface water from either CAP or SRP--will always be available, city officials say, because it's unlikely that both the Salt River and Colorado River watersheds will experience a drought at the same time.

Other knowledgeable water officials disagree.
"It is possible that the Salt River and the Colorado River would experience droughts at the same time," says Larry Dozier, assistant general manager for the Central Arizona Project.

In a severe drought, SRP lakes would dry up in seven years, their officials say.

Given this short life span for the lakes, it is particularly alarming that the CAP allocation for Arizona would be cut by 40 percent if there were a simultaneous drought in the CAP watershed.

What's more, the Colorado River is already overallocated; that is, more water has been promised to thirsty desert states than the river can produce, Dozier adds. Furthermore, until negotiations with Indian tribes are completed, no one knows for sure how much water the cities will actually get. If the tribes get their way in court, they may be granted large chunks of water previously allocated to the cities.

"The CAP may take care of urban water needs until the year 2010," says Wes Steiner. "But eventually it will be necessary to pump water from that aquifer and treat it."
What it all boils down to is that in times of drought, the city may need its TCE-polluted aquifer sooner than it thinks.

Should this happen, officials are resigned to the fact that citizens will pay the costs.

"The unfortunate truth to this is that the ratepayer will pay" for cleanup, says Steiner. A typical water bill might shoot up from $30 a month to $150 a month for a "fair-sized home," he says.

"We are all going to pay one way or the other," says Phil Briggs, the former DWR official. "We either pay in our taxes or water rates or in the price of products. If Motorola gets to the point that environmental costs are so high they can't compete in a global market, and have to fold up and close, then we have to pay with loss of jobs.

"We are always the ones who have to pay."


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