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MARICOPA — Maricopa residents might think twice about backwashing their pools into local washes after the City Council instated an ordinance with heavy fines at Tuesday night’s meeting.

David Alley, director for Maricopa Flood Control District, told the council that the issue of backwashing has been ongoing for a few years and has caused severe erosion in the Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz washes.

Alley said residents whose homes back these washes see the channels as a way to alleviate their water issue, often without realizing the damage draining causes to the area.

“They have a 300-foot channel built to carry water behind their property, so why not?” Alley said. “The problem is the material on the banks is highly subject to erosion and any water produced, even at a low velocity, will create a trench which only deepens over time.”

Over the last two years, MFCD has repaired six areas of severe erosion due to backwashing, with each running around $15,000 in damages.

“We spent nearly $100,000 making repairs that were completely preventable,” Alley added.

On at least four occasions, residents constructed structures to dump water into the channel. One contractor emptied about 15,000 gallons into the wash and caused significant damage to the area in the process. While most residents are happy to change their methods when asked by the city, the damage is often already done.

With ordinance 21-10, however, there will be more incentive to abide by these backwashing rules. Under the newly passed ordinance, residents can face fines anywhere between $250 and $2,500 for the first violation with heightening fines for every additional violation thereafter.

Instead of backwashing, the city recommends using excess pool water for backyard irrigation, or draining the water into a sanitary sewer clean-out on the property after gaining approval from the sewer provider.

During the meeting, Councilman Rich Vitiello raised the question of how residents could be notified of this change, such as via sign postings in the area. Though the change will be posted on the city website, Vice Mayor Nancy Smith further suggested notifying residents through a footnote in their water bill with Global Water. City officials stated they would pursue this idea.

The ordinance was passed unanimously by the council. At the meeting, Alley stated that the new policy will act as a better deterrent to residents and help stop future issues that may arise with continued city growth.

“As more homes populate the banks, the problem is only going to increase,” Alley said.

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Katie Sawyer covers Maricopa and the surrounding area for PinalCentral, including city, education, business, crime and more. She can be reached at ksawyer@pinalcentral.com.