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Sat, Jan. 18

Subdivision water draft on table

The Arizona Department of Water Resources has produced a draft policy about when subdivision developers in the state's five active management areas can change their plats without having to re-apply for a state certificate.

The policy especially will affect developers in the portion of the Prescott Active Management Area (AMA) outside of Prescott, where developers who received Assured Water Supply certificates before the state declared the AMA was depleting its groundwater supply in 1999 are the only ones that still can use AMA groundwater.

The state estimates that 25 to 50 undeveloped subdivisions in this AMA still have the right to use groundwater.

The new policy will define what the state considers to be substantial changes to the subdivision plats of AMA subdivisions. Those with substantial changes will need to apply for new certificates that prove they have a 100-year water supply, and therefore be unable to use groundwater if they are located in Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and unincorporated tri-city areas.

For years, the state has been informally using a 1999 City of Prescott resolution to decide whether new plats are in "substantial conformance" with the previous plats in such cases.

Since Prescott is the only municipality in the Prescott AMA that the state calls a "designated provider" of water, Prescott can set its own rules for substantial conformance because the state doesn't review final plats inside the city. Other designated water providers in other AMAs also can set their own rules.

The new draft will allow AMA subdivisions to increase their lots by 20 or 10 percent, while the current informal policy allows no increase.

Oftentimes larger and fewer lots use more water because of their larger lawns, Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) Assistant Director Jim Holway said.

The new draft wouldn't allow subdivisions in the Prescott and Santa Cruz AMAs to increase their water use, but it makes an exception for subdivisions inside multi-county water conservation districts.

Right now, the only counties with such a conservation district are Maricopa, Pima and Pinal. They are part of the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District that uses Central Arizona Project water piped from the Colorado River.

The draft policy contemplates letting subdivisions within AMAs in those three counties use more groundwater if they change their plat substantially, but the draft doesn't yet state how much water.

ADWR wants more comments from stakeholders before choosing those water amounts, Holway said.

The new draft allows developers to swap the location of land uses within one subdivision, relaxing a restriction that some developers had complained about.

The new draft keeps the same general policy about not allowing the exterior boundaries of subdivisions to enlarge unless they are part of a multi-phased master planned community; not allowing the average lot size to change by more than 15 percent; and not allowing the "nature and character" of the subdivision to change.

However, it better defines an intact "nature and character" as a subdivision where at least 98 percent of the six basic land uses or 95 percent of the acres are the same.

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