Marana's ability to operate its own waste-water treatment plant will allow the town have more control over its water resources, town officials say.
The town recently settled a years-long disagreement with Pima County that involved courts, legislation and voter input about whether the town could, and then should, operate its own waste-water treatment plant. The settlement involves the town paying $18.2 million to acquire the county's treatment plant that's in the town limits.
Running the treatment plant allows the town to decide what happens to the treated water, said Gilbert Davidson, Marana's town manager.
“This is all driving at water resources. What we want to do with it is take the water that goes through the treatment system, clean it to the highest level and then be able to ... recharge it into the aquifer, which is good to replenish the water beneath us," Davidson said.
"It also helps to save costs in us not having to go out onto the open water market and us not having to buy additional resources,” he said.
The town can also use the treated water on its open space property to avoid pumping groundwater, and Davidson said it can help the town decide on development issues such as the process for permitting waste-water hookups in new developments.
"We’ve tried to think of how do we improve our overall development process, expedite growth and decrease the amount of time that someone has to go through the permitting process," Davidson said.
The town held an election in March, in which it asked voters to approve of the town running a waste-water system. More than 70 percent of voters said yes, Davidson said.
While it's been a bit of a battle to get here, he said, Marana is not unique in operating its own waste-water system. Sahuarita runs its own plant, while all other cities and towns in Pima County use the county-owned system. The county, Davidson said, is in a unique position here.
"This is the only county that’s authorized by law to operate its own system," he said.
“We want to help facilitate well-planned, well-managed growth, and I think if Marana does this well the entire region benefits," he said. "When Marana is successful, when Oro Valley is successful, when any of the individual jurisdictions are doing good things and they’re generating jobs and people are moving into their respective communities, I think it benefits the entire region, it benefits the county."
AZ Illustrated Metro also interviewed Deputy Pima County Administrator John Bernal about this issue. To see the county's view, click here.
Listen to the radio version with Davidson and Bernal: