Prescott officials review alternative water supply, halfway through 3-month suspension

PRESCOTT - About a month and a half has now gone by since the city of Prescott temporarily turned off its alternative water for new development, and officials continue to work on a plan for dealing with the dwindling supply.

Facing requests that totaled more than double the amount of alternative water that was available for 2015, the Prescott City Council approved a three-month suspension in early November of applications for water-service agreements.

The suspension, which applied to new applications but not to projects that were already in the city's pre-application process, was intended to give city officials time to plan for how to deal with the issue.

The City Council's Water Issues Committee met on Dec. 29 for a review of that policy change, and for consideration of three water-service applications that were in the works at the time of the suspension.

Prescott Water Resources Manager Leslie Graser told the committee that the city had received inquiries for "over 300 acre-feet" of alternative water in 2015, while just 100 acre-feet of alternative water was available for allocation for the year. (An acre foot totals 325,851 gallons of water.)

"It was time to slow things down a little bit," Graser said of the move to suspend new water-service applications.

The city's pre-application process has continued, and since the start of the suspension, Graser says about four projects have come in that would require a water-service agreement. Those agreements are on hold until after the end of the suspension in February.

Councilman Jim Lamerson, the chairman of the council's Water Issues Committee, said, "One of the things that concerns me is the 'general pool' (of alternative water) is very challenged."

Before the November policy change, the city had a total of 314 acre-feet of remaining alternative water, of which it had been allocating 100 acre-feet per year for new development.

The resolution that the council approved on Nov. 10 makes the total 314 acre-feet available for allocation, along with 200 acre-feet of groundwater that had previously been reserved for residentially zoned "un-watered" tracts within city limits - for a total of just over 500 acre-feet.

As a part of its Nov. 10 resolution, the council agreed to prioritize allocations of remaining water by type of development.

Throughout the discussion, officials have emphasized that Prescott's alternative water is just one category in the city's water portfolio, and that the city is not running out of water for its current residents or for the many subdivisions that are already platted within city limits, and will be served by groundwater.

(The city's alternative water category consists of non-groundwater sources, such as credits from aquifer recharge of surface water from Willow and Watson lakes, and recharge of treated wastewater.)

Late this past month, the Water Issues Committee recommended approval of two water-service agreements for two projects (both of which were in process at the time of the alternative-water suspension):

• The Eureka Apartments, a 30-unit project planned at the site of the old Holiday Lodge, 1141 E. Gurley St.

• A remodel of a building at 223 E. Willis St., which was built in the early 1900s as a single-family home, and later converted to a boarding house, and then to a community residence (group home) in 2010. The owner is proposing converting the existing four units into eight apartments, Prescott Planning Manager George Worley said, and the renovated building would no longer be used as a group home.

Also up for consideration is Walden Ranch, a 286-lot single-family Planned Area Development on property previously known as Centerpointe South, located south of Centerpointe East and east of Highway 89. It was introduced at the meeting.

The Water Issues Committee makes recommendations to the full Prescott City Council, which will make the final decision on the three water-service agreements.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-642-0951.