December 14, 2019

Waterworks Survey Conducted

Posted on 06. Jun, 2011 by Administrator in Energy/Environment

By Nancy Gordon and Kathy Whiteman — What do you know about the historic Silver City Waterworks?  Do you know where Silver City’s water comes from today? Students from Aldo Leopold High School and staff from the Gila Conservation Education Center recently conducted a phone survey to find out how many people could answer these questions. The Silver City Waterworks was established in 1887 and provided the Town’s first municipal water supply.  Located on Little Walnut Road, the stone building had rooms for the pumping equipment and a 2-story residence for the engineer.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Despite numerous studies, plans and attempts to secure large grants over the past 25 years, little has been done to rehabilitate the building other than emergency roof repairs.  The cost of the total rehabilitation is now estimated at about $1 million. In March of this year, the Town of Silver City was awarded a grant from the Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold Foundation which has re-energized efforts to restore the Waterworks building.  The grant, for $39,200 with a $35,140 in-kind match, will pay for surveying, grading and drainage plans, structural engineering and historic architecture assessments, masonry repair as a community service learning project, evaluation and outreach.  Nancy Gordon, a volunteer for the Town, is managing the project.

The Gila Conservation Education Center (GCEC) was contracted to conduct a pre- and post-project evaluation to assess the effectiveness of outreach efforts related to this project.  Kathy Whiteman, GCEC Director, arranged for Aldo Leopold High School students in Harry Brown’s Year 4 Interactive Mathematics class to participate in data collection.  During March and April, students Milagre Coates, Camille Dalton, Caleb Kalisher, Miriel Manning and Dhante Stroud phoned 142 Silver City residents and had 70 responses.  In May, GCEC AmeriCorps members and three Youth Conservation Corps interns made 50 more contacts.  A surprisingly high proportion of people contacted, 45 percent, knew something about the Waterworks, either what it was historically, or where it was located.  One person guessed that it was on Gold Street and another said downtown.

More than half of respondents knew where Silver City derived its municipal water, correctly citing the source as wells, groundwater, or underground aquifers – but when asked where the Town’s wells were, only three people mentioned Franks wellfield and only one knew that the Town had other wells.  One person thought the Town’s water supply came from Lake Roberts.

The Town of Silver City obtains its municipal water from the Franks and Woodward wellfields and the Anderson and Gabby Hayes wells, all located southwest of Silver City between highways 180 and 90.  Some of these wells are over 1000 feet deep.  Future water demands for the Town are uncertain, but one study indicates that the Town’s wells will be capable of meeting domestic needs (under a 1.45 percent population growth rate) for the next 40 years.  However, well levels are declining and additional sources of water will eventually be needed.  The Waterworks, once the Town’s only water source, has water rights of 18 acre-feet per year compared to the Town’s current water use of about 2,800 acre-feet per year.  It was disconnected from the Town’s water system at some point (the date is uncertain), although it was used as a non-potable water supply (e.g. for construction) up until the year 2000.  Rehabilitation of the Waterworks building and well will allow the facility to play a small part in Silver City’s water future, by providing landscaping water on-site and at the Silva Creek Botanical Garden.  GCEC will be giving presentations on the Silver City Waterworks until the end of the year, at which time a post-project evaluation survey will be conducted.  The same questions will be asked – and if you’ve read this article, you’ll have all the answers.

If you would like to schedule a presentation on the Waterworks for your organization, or are interested in participating in September’s mortar repair project, please contact Nancy Gordon at 538-3969 or aqua@zianet.com.

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