After months of negotiations, the City of Nogales has reached a deal with a local golf course to settle its claims against the municipal government for years of water overcharges.
The settlement, approved by the city council last Wednesday, will give Kino Springs Golf Course 1,000 acre-feet of free water, worth about $202,500, over the next 10 years.
It also permits Kino Springs to build and pump cheaper “raw water” from a new well at a rate of $202.50 per acre-foot after the free allowance is used up.
That’s about 84 percent less than the rate it currently pays for irrigation water from the city.
Arthur Martori, who owns the golf course, wrote in a Sept. 29, 2018 letter that he was seeking $400,000 from the city in relation to overcharges, after it was discovered that a water meter at the course had been measuring a greater amount of water than the course was actually using.
The council’s resolution estimated that the city had overcharged Kino Springs to the tune of $305,259, including interest, since 1988.
While the value of free water that the city will give to Kino Springs is lower than its own estimate of the overcharges, the new well that the golf course plans to build will allow it to save dramatically on future water use.
According to city documents, Kino Springs had been paying $3.91 per 1,000 gallons for irrigation water that it accessed from city wells.
That comes to approximately $1,274 per acre-foot, more than six times the price that the course will pay for raw water from the new well.
In 2018, the golf course used 149.58 acre-feet of water, according to a report filed with the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
While the potential savings for Kino Springs are large, some city officials said that they might not have preserved any revenue by keeping the golf course on the higher-priced water supply.
Kino Springs operators had told the city that they wouldn’t be able to keep the course open if they had to keep paying the same price for water, said Alejandro Barcenas, the city’s public works director.
In 2018 and 2019, the course has closed for the summer months beginning in June, with Martori citing high maintenance costs and low summer use.
He said that he expected the course to re-open in October this year. In 2018, it re-opened after the summer on Oct. 19.
Martori added that the course could return to year-round operations in the future if it drew more golfers during the summer.