City, Gadsden district resolve dispute over water wells on school grounds
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — City Hall and the Gadsden Elementary School District have reached an agreement that officials say will prevent a court fight over the district's practice of digging wells to provide irrigation water for school grounds.
The district will proceed with work currently under way on a well at Arizona Desert Elementary School in San Luis, in return for not digging any new wells to irrigate plants and grass.
Wells are in place at three schools in the district that serves San Luis and neighboring Gadsden. Superintendent Ray Aguilera says the district can save $50,000 a year by using non-potable water it extracts from the wells rather than using potable water from the city's water delivery system.
But city officials say the wells run contrary to a city ordinance adopted in July to impose restrictions on well digging in the city as part of measures to protect a resource regulated under a binational treaty with Mexico. They say the school wells cost city government revenue it needs to pay for water service to commercial and non-commercial customers.
The city ordinance notwithstanding, Gadsden officials argued that well sites were governed by state government and that a permit issued by the state allowed the district to dig a well at Arizona Desert.
This week, the council approved an ordinance permitting the Arizona Desert well, thus allowing current work to proceed. The vote came after weeks of negotiations between city and school officials aimed at precluding a court battle.
“City Hall and the school district serve the same people,” Councilman Joe Harper said. The agreement worked out by the two sides, he added, “sets a precedent that things can be solved through good communication.”
Mayor Gerardo Sanchez said the council's approval of the well was a one-time exception to an ordinance designed to conserve a natural resource that serves the city.