Prescott water policy passes 1st review

PRESCOTT — An alternative-water policy that would be in effect for the remainder of 2016 received an initial review from the Prescott City Council this week.

If approved, the policy would do a number of things, including authorizing a gradual transfer of water that was previously reserved for Prescott’s vacant un-subdivided tracts to the city’s “general pool” of alternative water.

That general pool would be available for future new developments, as well as vacant tracts within city limits.

Under the draft policy, the city would transfer 50 acre-feet per year of the remaining reserve of 431.7 acre-feet, to the general pool.

Prescott Water Resources Manager Leslie Graser emphasized the difference between vacant “lots” and vacant “tracts.” Lots located within established platted subdivisions would not be affected by the proposed transfer, she said, because they are served by groundwater.

She noted that established subdivisions might have a number of vacant lots, but said, “A tract is different, which means it’s un-subdivided.”

The new policy is being proposed in response to the city’s dwindling supply of alternative water.

“There are limited water supplies on the alternative-water side of the portfolio,” Graser said, stressing that alternative water differs from the groundwater portion of the portfolio.

The proposed policy explains that since 1999, the city has accounted for its “alternative water,” which is made up of sources such as surface water (from Willow and Watson lakes), recharge of treated wastewater, and imported water from the Big Chino Sub-basin.

The city allocates its alternative water supplies to new development. The groundwater supply, on the other hand, is pumped from the ground and is dedicated to serving current Prescott residents, as well as the hundreds of vacant lots within approved subdivisions.

Officials have stressed throughout the months-long policy discussion that the city is not running out of groundwater for existing residents and the many approved subdivisions and lots.

The 14-page policy, with additional attachments, includes background on Prescott’s water portfolio as well as the Prescott Active Management Area (AMA), of which Prescott is a part.

It also includes a breakdown of the city’s “general pool” of alternative water, and its reservations for vacant residentially-zoned tracts of land within city limits.

Officials have pointed out that relatively few owners of the vacant tracts within the city have come forward to use the reserve of water.

“As of March 23, 2016, WSAs (water service agreements) have been written for 144.4 acre-feet,” the draft policy states.

The draft policy was recommended to the full council by the Water Issues Committee, which is made up of three council members. It would be a temporary policy, Graser said.

“This entire policy is to get us through the end of the year and see what happens,” she said. “I’ll be working on something to bring to you for the 2017 calendar year.”

The policy is expected to go the council for a possible vote on May 3.