Neither the Town of Fountain Hills nor Sanitary District has immediate plans for addressing the high content of salt present in effluent.
The high sodium content has been brought up as an issue negatively affecting the long-term viability of turf for most local golf courses and town parks (see separate story).
Town of Fountain Hills Community Services Director Mark Mayer acknowledged that the high content of salt in effluent used for irrigation in town parks is a turf management issue.
However, at this point he has not been asked by anyone, including the town manager or Town Council, to look into the issue for a resolution or program to mitigate the problem.
The town irrigates three of its four parks with effluent: Fountain Park, Golden Eagle and Desert Vista. Four Peaks Park does not use effluent.
Mayer said the town does have the option to flush the irrigation systems at Golden Eagle and Desert Vista with potable water on occasion, however, there is no system in place to switch Fountain Park to potable water.
Ron Huber, manager for the Fountain Hills Sanitary District, said he would have no opposition to a public awareness campaign to help educate homeowners about water softener systems and the dangers of salt.
Huber is sensitive, however, to misconceptions that somehow the district is contributing to the salt problem through its treatment processes.
“A lot of individuals think this is something the district should be able to do on its own,” Huber said.
“This is a common problem in Arizona where reclaimed wastewater is provided.”
Huber said the district is not in a financial position to install costly reverse osmosis systems to remove the excess salt from reclaimed wastewater.
In addition, that process generates a by-product known as “brine,” a salty liquid solution that the district does not have the capability of handling or disposing of at this time.
“Much of the salt that does end up in the waste stream comes from home water softeners,” Huber said. “If we could get everyone in Fountain Hills to switch from salt to potassium, that would great.”
Jeff Lessig, manager of SunRidge Canyon Golf, estimates 55 percent of the residential units in town have water softeners. Huber said it could be as high as 75 percent, based on other trends throughout the Southwest and the hard water used throughout the West.
Lessig feels the best plan for all of Fountain Hills is enacting a public awareness campaign to urge homeowners who have water softeners to switch to potassium instead of salt.
He is working to build a community consensus on a campaign and launch a program later this year.