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Apache Junction Invests In Infrastructure In Bid For Growth
Most people start their day with a mug of coffee, but Brian Warner is filling his morning cup with a water sample straight from the Central Arizona Project Canal. Don’t worry though, he’s not going drink it.
“I’ll take that water into the lab and analyze it for turbidity, PH, conductivity,” Warner said. He’s checking what’s in the water to see how much filtration it needs before it’s safe to drink. Warner runs the newly built $9 million water treatment plant in Apache Junction.
Powered by a pumping station, two 8-inch pipes suck water out of the steadily flowing canal like giant straws. “We run these at one million gallons per day," Warner said. "Right now the capacity of the plant is two million gallons per day."
The water pours into tanks in the new treatment facility where technicians add chlorine and filter the water several more times.
“The water comes up through in the roughing filter and then down flow through our polishing filter. The polishing filter is dual media consisting of anthracite coal and silica sand,” Warner said. It looks like an industrial sized Brita filter but Warner assures me it’s much more complicated than that.
Apache Junction Water District Director Frank Blanco said it’s a relatively small operation so far - they service about 4,300 customers - but it was built to expand as demand increases. "This plant can grow five-fold when needed," Blanco said. "So whenever we do have additional customers that come in we’ll be ready to modularly increase our capacity.”
Until this plant came online, the city relied on pumping groundwater and purchasing treated CAP water from Mesa. Now the city can more accurately manage its own CAP allotment.
Water Superintendent Mike Loggins is monitoring the whole operation in the control room. “It tells us how much water we produced here and how much we’ve taken out of the canal," Loggins said. "So we can keep track of exactly how much we can use so that we don’t go over that allocation. Because if you do, you can get fined. But also you don’t want to go under your allocation because then it just goes downstream and you pay for the water that you don’t receive.”
Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy said the new setup should hold costs steady for water customers. “We’re now gonna be able to get water at a much cheaper rate," Serdy said. "The water that we were getting from Mesa, we had to buy it at almost full retail.”
In January of 2016, Apache Junction’s water bill with Mesa was more than $25,000. But Mayor Serdy said keeping water costs down is just one of the long term goals of the project. “It gives us room to grow," he said. "If something happens south of the freeway where all the state land is, then we can double this capacity.”
Serdy is speaking of the undeveloped land owned by the state south of the Superstition Highway. The city sees this as a prime location for future growth and the city leaders have been lobbying the State Land Department to open it up to more private development. “I see this as the Superstition Area instead of Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, we’re all one big area,” Serdy said.
Apache Junction’s population is currently about 38,000. The mayor hopes that the new infrastructure and city services will be enough to convince the more than 10,000 people living in the nearby unincorporated areas to become city residents.