The town of Marana and the Cortaro-Marana Irrigation District are nearing an agreement that would transfer ownership of seven productive water wells from CMID to the town.
Dan Post, chairman of the CMID board, said the seven wells are not among the high-volume irrigation wells that make up about 45 percent of the district's well inventory. Rather, they are lower volume wells sufficient for domestic water purposes.
"They didn't fit into our irrigation needs, so we're selling them to the town," he said.
Town manager Gilbert Davidson said last week the town remains in negotiations with the CMID on the purchase of the wells. He expects the deal to be done before the end of May.
While declining to give an exact purchase price for the wells, Davidson conceded the price would be in "seven figures," and added, "the ultimate number will be fair to both organizations based on the value of the deal and resolving the outstanding issues over the years."
CMID has had an intergovernmental agreement with the town since 1997 to provide wholesale water to the town's water system. That agreement, said Post, was mutually terminated in January of this year.
"The town felt it needed to produce its own water and didn't need to be tied to us," Post said of the agreement's end. "The agreement was that as we transitioned from agriculture to urban, the loss of sales to farmers would be made up by increased sales to urban areas, but that didn't happen as fast as we thought it would. Our expenses to produce water for them (Marana) were in proportion to the volumes we were selling them, but to cover our costs we would have had to raise our price more than they could afford."
Davidson called the IGA termination a way "to afford the town the opportunity to do the things we need to do as a community."
Dorothy O'Brien, assistant utilities director for the town, said Marana decided to pursue purchase of the wells for added capacity, redundancy and their locations.
"The town has relied on these wells as potable water sources since the 1997 agreement and now we're purchasing those assets," she said.
The wells being purchased include two irrigation wells and two domestic wells in the Cortaro Road – Continental Ranch area, producing 1,800, 1,240, 300 and 225 gallons per minute. Another well in west Marana off Sandario Road produces 650 gpm, one in east Marana, 500 gpm, and one on Avra Valley Road, 50 gpm.
CMID has more than 50 remaining wells, serving both domestic and irrigation requirements.
According to Post, the Cortaro Water Users Association, which is the operating body of the CMID, originally put up the seed money to incorporate the town of Marana to help protect the area's water resources so they wouldn't be lost to the city of Tucson.
"Farmers have as much at stake in making the town successful as anyone else," Post said. "We're vitally interested in the success of the town, and water is a key to that success. We have substantial water rights and are willing to share with the town at appropriate compensation to the district."
Davidson said he expects the town will continue to have a good relationship with CMID, especially as other water issues develop in the coming years.
"There are issues of flood control, supplying water to public areas, working with homeowners associations and electrical power that we can explore with CMID," Davidson said.
He noted small amounts of hydropower can be created from canals where small turbines generate green, renewable energy.
"If we were able to apply some of the one megawatt of hydropower we already receive to public facilities, parks or street lighting, there might be some opportunities for CMID with their hydropower as well," Davidson said.
Council members Herb Kai and Jon Post have recused themselves from discussions regarding CMID and the town of Marana.