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San Luis, Gadsden district split over water well issue
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — This city and Gadsden Elementary School District officials have been meeting to try to avoid a court battle over the district's plans to dig a well on school grounds to get irrigation water for plants and grass on the campus.
The district recently dug a well at Southwest Junior High School in San Luis. In July, it got a permit from the state to dig another well at Desert View Elementary School, also located in the Arizona border city.
The district hopes to save money by using non-potable water it extracts from its wells rather than using potable water from the city's water delivery system.
Superintendent Ray Aguilera said that apart from saving about $50,000 annually at each of three schools where it currently has the wells in place, the district is considering potable water for human consumption.
But the district's desire to dig wells is running contrary to a city ordinance approved by the council in July to impose restrictions on well digging in the city as part of measures to protect a resource that is regulated under a binational treaty with Mexico.
But Aguilera said the well sites are governed by the state. “State law says that (the state) issues permits for wells with the exception of certain places. We have a permit from the state to begin digging.”
The wells, city officials also fear, could hurt revenue the city takes in from water service it provides.
The city is not trying to make a profit out of the utility services it provides, City Attorney Glenn Gimbut said, “but we're trying to make (the utilities) financially self-sufficient, and right now there's a deficit of nearly $1 million (in the utility fund).
“If all the schools have their own well, the lost revenue would be $1.2 million, and then we'd have to raise (water) rates.”
City council members recently instructed San Luis officials to meet with the district to try to arrive at a solution that would preclude a court fight.
“That's what we want to avoid,” said Mayor Gerardo Sanchez, noting that the Gadsden school district is one of the city's biggest water users.
Sanchez said the ordinance adopted by the city in July was essential to protect a valuable resource.
“If limits are not imposed, everyone is going to want to have their own wells. That affects not only the resource but also city revenues.”
Both Sanchez and Gadsden district governing board member Tadeo De la Hoya said they believe the two sides will be able to reach an agreement.