Water worries in Yuma? ‘Colonias’ face several issues
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 email@example.com.
Yuma Ag & You