Originally Published: October 28, 2017 5:58 a.m.
Prescott pumps all of its water from wells north of Chino Valley and near the Prescott airport. There is not enough water in these wells to supply all the future urban growth.
In 2004, Prescott bought the JWK
ranch north of Paulden for its underground water. The project was renamed the Big Chino Water Ranch. The Arizona Department of Water Resources, with approval by the Legislature, estimated the annual withdrawal of water from the Ranch at more than 8,000 acre feet. SRP, which owns the water from the Verde River, filed a lawsuit to stop the water ranch, claiming the water wells would draw down water from the Verde River and thus cause a reduction to the river flow and the amount of water retained in the Bartlett and Horseshoe reservoirs.
The construction plans for the water ranch including wells, well heads, tanks, pipes, easement agreements, etc. (infrastructure) were drawn up in 2006. These plans are 90 percent complete and have been on the shelf at Prescott's engineering department for 11 years. In 2006, the engineer`s cost estimate to build the infrastructure was $150 million. A conservative cost estimate today is well over $200 million.
In 2010, SRP and Prescott agreed out of court to an annual withdrawal of 8,068 acre feet of water. There is a caveat to this agreement. Should the withdrawal of water harm the Upper Verde River, then it’s possible the water withdrawal could be reduced or suspended. It is a lot of money and years of time to build the infrastructure for a limited supply of water that is not legally assured.