Wa­ter wor­ries in Yuma? ‘Colo­nias’ face sev­eral is­sues

Yuma Sun - - NEWS - Bobbi Steven­sonMcDer­mott

I, for one, am so thank­ful that I live in Yuma. With all the nat­u­ral dis­as­ters hit­ting por­tions of the United States, all I have to worry about is heat, pe­ri­odic hu­mid­ity and thun­der­storms. The worst case is usu­ally a mi­croburst cre­at­ing some dam­age or flood­ing but not de­stroy­ing our com­mu­nity, crop­lands or lives. There was a trop­i­cal storm that vis­ited in 1975, but even then, there were lim­ited ef­fects. We in Yuma County truly have much to be thank­ful for.

Last week, the Ari­zona Repub­lic had a story head­lined from Yuma on the front page. It was ti­tled “Wa­ter Wor­ries” and dealt with the prob­lems with do­mes­tic wa­ter sup­plies to un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas of the county who use wells for do­mes­tic wa­ter uses. The pa­per iden­ti­fied th­ese ar­eas as “colo­nias,” but the prob­lems can also be found on lands that were il­le­gally sub­di­vided through­out the county. No county of­fi­cials were quoted, but the pa­per made the blan­ket state­ment that the process was too com­pli­cated to do any­thing about the prob­lems. That is not a true state­ment. The truth is there are op­tions of im­prove­ment dis­tricts, use of ru­ral devel­op­ment pro­grams and other self-help pro­grams, but the com­mu­ni­ties must work to­gether to ac­com­plish the goals. Con­tact­ing your su­per­vi­sor on the Yuma County Board of Su­per­vi­sors is a great way to start.

Any­time land that is not served by a le­gal pub­lic wa­ter sys­tem is pur­chased, it is up to the buyer to de­ter­mine whether or not the lack of potable wa­ter is a prob­lem. The buyer should also ask for doc­u­ments on a prop­erty with an ex­ist­ing well. There should be a per­mit to drill, well log from the drilling process and wa­ter qual­ity and quan­tity tests. There also should be a sep­a­ra­tion be­tween the well and sep­tic sys­tems. Con­tam­i­na­tion of wells can be caused by sewage flood­ing the area around the well. This can hap­pen through ir­ri­ga­tion over the sep­tic sys­tem, im­prop­erly con­structed sep­tic fields or by nat­u­ral events. If the soils drain rapidly, it is pos­si­ble that wa­ter from the sep­tic tank sys­tem will con­tam­i­nate the wa­ter ta­ble be­ing pumped by the well, depend­ing on the size of the sep­tic sys­tem and the soil it is lo­cated in.

The ar­ti­cle went on, after the few para­graphs iden­ti­fied as Yuma, to state that about 90 per­cent of the colo­nias, roughly 2,000 of them, are lo­cated in Texas.

Wa­ter sup­plies and dis­posal of sewage go to­gether. If you are not hooked up to a sewer sys­tem, most likely you use a sep­tic tank sewage dis­posal sys­tem. The key to the func­tion­ing of a sep­tic sys­tem is the soil it is in­stalled. If the soil is not sat­is­fac­tory, the sewage dis­posal sys­tem will not work prop­erly re­gard­less of how well it was con­structed or in­stalled.

In plan­ning a sep­tic-tank sewage dis­posal sys­tem, first find out if the soil can ab­sorb the liq­uid sewage, the ef­flu­ent; that flows from the sep­tic tank. Some soils ab­sorb ef­flu­ent rapidly, oth­ers slowly. How long and how well your sewage dis­posal sys­tem works de­pends largely on the ab­sorp­tion ca­pac­ity of the soil. The ef­flu­ent must be ab­sorbed and fil­tered by the soil, other­wise, un­fil­tered sewage may reach the sur­face or may con­tam­i­nate ground wa­ter.

Know­ing the ab­sorp­tion ca­pac­ity of the soil also helps you de­ter­mine the size of the ab­sorp­tion field you need. The slower the rate of ab­sorp­tion, the larger the field you need. Lo­cal or­di­nances ad­dress the proper con­struc­tion of the sep­tic tank and fil­ter fields. Soil in­for­ma­tion is avail­able from your lo­cal Nat­u­ral Re­sources Con­ser­va­tion Ser­vice Of­fice or on­line at WEB soil sur­vey. Be­fore you make that land pur­chase for your dream home, check the soils!

Bobbi Steven­son-McDer­mott is a soil and wa­ter con­ser­va­tion­ist. She can be reached at rjsm09@msn.com.

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