WHETSTONE — North American Development Bank (NADB), along with Whetstone Water Improvement District board members, contractors and community leaders gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate a newly completed well in Whetstone.

Well No. 3 was made possible through a $500,000 grant from NADB, and provides a badly needed infrastructure upgrade to Whetstone Water District’s well system, which was built more than 30 years ago, said Robert Salazar, water district manager and one of its two certified operators.

“This project improves the water supply and distribution system for Whetstone Water District and gives us the opportunity to do required maintenance on our other two wells,” Salazar added.

Funding for the project included design and construction of the new well and installation of a pipeline interconnection system that runs under Highway 90.

NADB also awarded a $100,000 technical assistance grant for the project five years ago, which was used to pay Tucson-based Westland Engineering for the well’s design.

“The well’s actual construction started in January 2020 and took about six months to complete,” Salazar said in an interview following Wednesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony. “We’re now waiting for the ADEQ (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality) to sign-off on the ‘Approval of Construction’ so we can turn the well on and start using it.”

Salazar said he expects the ADEQ approval to happen sometime next week.

Oversight for the project was by Civil Engineer Bill O’Brien of NextGen Engineering out of Tucson.

The project, which started in January, was held up by COVID-19 and took three months longer than expected, O’Brien said.

Whetstone Water District board chairman Dale Phelps started off Wednesday’s event.

“Welcome to the ribbon cutting ceremony for our new well number three. We’re all part of the Whetstone Water Improvement District. This has been kind of a long project for us that we’ve been trying for quite a while to get completed,” he said.

“I appreciate the efforts of all the people who have worked together to make this happen.”

Salazar thanked all those who assisted the water district in procuring grants, for help with the bidding process, the engineering firms and contractors involved in the well’s construction and “the people of North American Development Bank for the funding” that made the project a reality for some 1,000 Whetstone residents on the water district’s system.

The 600-foot well is substantially deeper than the system’s two older wells the water district has been using.

The new well will allow repairs to be done on other systems.

“They’re older wells, so this gives us an opportunity to shut them down for required maintenance,” Salazar said.

The two existing wells will be used for backup and provide a redundancy water supply for the water system.

Cochise County Supervisor Peggy Judd attended the ceremony and spoke briefly about the importance of the well.

“When I first started working with the water district in 2017 as a brand new supervisor, I had no idea how much I could help them by advocating for the funding they needed to improve the water system,” she said.

“They were having trouble with some of their wells and were in the process of securing funding through NADB. I participated in a variety of ways by meeting with the water district’s users and speaking to NADB officials. I was pleased to see how this public utility district rose to the occasion and followed through with such a great outcome.”

NADB Public Affairs Director Jesse Hereford, addressed the group remotely, and spoke of how the well’s improvements to Whetstone Water District residents provides increased service reliability to 459 existing residential service connections while reducing incidents of low pressure and eliminating service interruptions.

“Prior to completion, water production capacity and transmission did not comply with the standards necessary to meet the service demand,” Hereford said. “As a result, these households experienced low water pressures daily, creating a risk for backflow and cross-contamination problems in the distribution system.”

The NADB grant comes from a Community Assistance Program (CAP), which provides funding for critical environmental infrastructure projects in low-income communities, according to an NADB press release about the project.

Grants are available for projects in all sectors eligible for NADB financing, with priority given to drinking water, wastewater, water conservation and solid waste infrastructures.