Water sources a mixed bag for some rural residents

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - Some residents of northern Arizona’s rural Coconino County use water from commercial wells or other shared sources that aren’t intended to provide community supplies.

Often because of the large expense of drilling a well, many rural residents either haul water in tanks that they fill elsewhere or pay someone else to deliver it, the Arizona Daily Sun (http://ow.ly/x3Okb ) reported.

Some of the water wells are privately owned standpipes in communities such as Williams, Parks, Bellemont and Ash Fork while others are on the Navajo Nation.

The “non-community” designation is for a water source that is not supposed to be used as the main supply for a community and not used for domestic purposes over a prolonged period of time.

It’s a designation intended for rest stops, RV parks, national parks, campgrounds and rural motels - places where short-term exposure to certain contaminants isn’t likely to be harmful.

“Because of the short exposure times involved, typically these systems only monitor for acute contaminants such as nitrates or bacteria,” according to Arizona Department of Environmental Quality regulations.

The water sources off the reservation are classified for human consumption but not to the higher regulatory standard for water for domestic use in communities.

Some residents also drive into Flagstaff to get their water from city-owned standpipes, which provide treated municipal drinking water.

DEQ spokesman Mark Shaffer said the department will look at some of the standpipe sites to see if they are serving more than 25 customers.

“If you’re serving 25 or more households year-round, you’re a community water system” under Arizona law, Shaffer said. “Once someone is considered a community water system, there’s a whole other level of monitoring they have to do.”

Erin Young, Flagstaff’s water resource manager, said the city constantly tests the municipal water supply, including its standpipes, to screen harmful items.

Many standpipes on the Navajo Nation aren’t regulated at all because they are designated for livestock.

Yolanda Barney, environmental program manager for the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency’s Public Water Systems Supervision Program, said health risks of drinking water from an unregulated source include e. coli and giardia.

She said other risks in some areas are arsenic and uranium contamination, which seep into the water from natural sources - as well as mining activity.

No studies have been done to determine how often tribal members get sick from hauled water, and Barney said there’s no funding to pay the research.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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