GV contract mutually beneficial

Valley Pioneers Water Co. Manager Bobbie Wood samples water for sediment from one of the new Mineral Park wells. DONNA NEWMAN/Golden Valley Gazette

Valley Pioneers Water Co. Manager Bobbie Wood samples water for sediment from one of the new Mineral Park wells. DONNA NEWMAN/Golden Valley Gazette

Under a new contract that company officials are calling the biggest thing to happen to Golden Valley to date, Valley Pioneers Water Co. gets five highly productive new wells, Mineral Park Mine gets all the water it needs to operate efficiently, and the water company's customers should get a break on their water bills in the long run.

Officials from VPWC and the Mineral Park Mine, a subsidiary of Mercator Minerals, worked for about a year to iron out the details of an agreement that entails the mine spending millions of dollars to upgrade existing wells and open new ones, and then turning the wells over to the water company to operate.

In exchange, the mine gets the quantity of water it needs for its current level of operation and a planned expansion.

VPWC Board of Trustees President Henry Peairs Jr. signed the contract on behalf of the company in early October. He said Mineral Park is guaranteed 16,000 acre-feet of water per year under the new agreement. At about 325,851 gallons per acre-foot, that translates in laymen's terms to a little more than 5 million gallons annually.

Peairs said the agreement takes Valley Pioneers from controlling five wells to 10, more than doubling the company's potential output. But don't expect the company to share with neighboring cities outside the system.

VPWC sells some water to the tiny villages of Chloride and So-Hi Estates, but those are not municipalities, he said.

"We don't sell water to any city outside our service area," he said.

"This agreement could extend our ability to serve our customers far beyond the 100-year projection required by the state, even if the valley's population grows over time the way some believe it will," Peairs said.

The utility's service area runs from Shinarump Drive north to Agua Fria Road and from Teddy Roosevelt Road to U.S. Route 93. The only exception to that is the mutually beneficial contract with the mine, he said.

The contract also means a quantum leap in system technology for the privately run, member-owned water cooperative.

"Mineral Park is putting a $3 million to $4 million investment into our water company, without becoming a partner," then-Manager John Clayton said when the contract was signed. Clayton retired on Oct. 31 and was replaced by Bobbi Wood.

The mine would end up pumping the water it needs from the aquifer with or without the water company's cooperation, so "We might as well work with them," he said.

"Eventually, we'll have an all-new SCADA system, new boosters, new pumps," Clayton said. "Getting the mine involved guarantees us an ample water supply and a new backup system."

Wood said the new SCADA system - SCADA is an acronym for System Control and Data Analysis - means the water company's management will be able to monitor the company's equipment from the office, instead of having to drive to each well site to accomplish the same thing.

"We'll be able to monitor the temperature of the motors, the whole operation," she said. "It's a state-of-the-art system that monitors all of the pumps, tanks, tank levels and a lot more."

Mike Surratt, Mineral Park's president and corporate executive officer, said on Jan. 3 that the mine's investment could be even greater than Clayton estimated - the mine's foreseeable costs could run as high as $5 million.

VPWC will host its annual meeting and election of officers at 6:30 tonight at the water company offices, corner of Chino Drive and Colorado Road in Golden Valley. The meeting is restricted to member/customers.