City must proceed with water rules

The City of Prescott should proceed with the two proposed resolutions on arsenic treatment and exempt wells it discussed this past week.

One resolution advocates regulating arsenic treatment of water from exempt wells on the same basis under which the City of Prescott must remove arsenic from municipal water to comply with stricter federal guidelines.

The other recommends charging a fee on future exempt wells to pay for their effect on safe yield.

The frequent-flier complainers in the council audience during the discussion are probably right. Neither resolution is likely to end up as public policy. But they may provoke badly-needed public discussion of both issues.

Bullies and federal agencies do what they do because they can ­ not necessarily because it makes any sense. The stricter arsenic standards the city may have to spend tens of millions of dollars to meet have no soundly demonstrated science to support them. And if it's so deleterious to the health of people in municipalities to drink the water, is it not equally so for people drinking out of exempt wells?

Exempt wells probably represent the third largest user of water in the Prescott Active Management Area, yet the responsibility for meeting safe yield falls solely onmunicipalities in the AMA.

The State of Arizona declared itself the owner of all groundwater. As the owner, it must manage that resource. Yet it has no way to establish how much water exempt wells use and no way to make them participate in reaching the 2025 deadline when the amount of water going back into the aquifer must equal the amount users take out of the ground.

Although the resolutions may not become public policy, they might help get some people off the dime to start making some fair, rational public policy.

The current arsenic policy and the situation with exempt wells are neither fair nor rational.