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12:22 PM Wed, Nov. 14th

PV's growth in 2003 draws neighbors' ire

WATER

The unquenchable need for more water to buoy Prescott Valley's growth remained at the top of the town's priority list in 2003. Prescott Valley continued its examination of every possible legal way to get more water.

By year's end the town had nearly reached an agreement for easements onto ranch land in order to drill a half-dozen new water wells. The town wants the new well field because its present pumpage of groundwater is a volume so large that the "cone of depression" – an area devoid of groundwater – it is creating under the town is increasing. The new well field will place wells outside that cone of depression.

The Granite Dells and Point of Rocks ranches had already made development agreements with the City of Prescott to put in as many as 9,000 new homes. Mortillaro first said the ranch owners wanted PV water for residential development in exchange for the land easements. As negotiations drew to a conclusion in December, Mortillaro said the issue was really about the landowners retaining a legal right and capability to access the groundwater in the future.

When the town annexed the Bradshaw Mountain Middle School property in Dewey into PV, it also bought the water rights that came with the school. By state law, the town cannot use the 70 acre-feet per year for residential development, but it can pump the water for commercial development.

The school was not using the 70 acre-feet when the state Department of Water Resources made its declaration that the area is in overdraft – that residents are drawing more water from the aquifer than is going back in from recharge and precipitation. Pumping that unused 70 acre-feet adds to the overdraft. Buying and pumping unused water credits, according to ADWR, exacerbates overdraft to the point that the area will not reach "safe yield" – an equilibrium between recharge and pumping groundwater – by 2025.

The town is trying to gain permission from ADWR to pump even more groundwater by recharging the aquifer with more effluent (treated wastewater). PV dumps most of its wastewater into the Agua Fria River wash where, ADWR says, it leaves the area before percolating down to the aquifer. In 2003 the town bought some of the wash from a private landowner and is building a series of small dams in the wash to delay the effluent long enough to percolate to the aquifer. If ADWR determines that the project is working, it will grant the town permission to pump an additional quantity of groundwater equal to the effluent recharge.

Contact the reporter at amerrill@prescottaz.com