Ranch talk raises issues
PRESCOTT – Even as Prescott was moving closer and closer to buying a water ranch, questions continued to arise about the amount of water that was available to allocate to new projects closer to home.
The status of the city's alternate water budget came up again and again in late 2004 as the city considered allocating water to various new residential projects.
And as the end of the year approached, the City Council approved a short-term water policy that made it much more difficult for new projects that had no prior allotment of groundwater to receive an alternate water allocation.
In September, the cityapplied to the Arizona De-partment of Water Resources for the right to 3,318 acre-feet more of alternate water. That application is still pending, and city officials expect to hear back from the state by about April. A review period will likely begin this month to allow the public to comment on the city's application.
In the meantime, the city's existing alternate water budget was dwindling. Currently, the balance is at about 230 acre-feet, said Public Works Director Craig McConnell.
The city started its budget with 1,000 acre-feet about five years ago, and through the years it allocated water to new projects that did not already have allocations.
Questions came up about the actual balance of the account – especially in light of Prescott's earlier preliminary agreement with the Granite Dells and Point of Rocks ranches that would obligate the city to provide about 612.5 acre-feet of water for the first phase of the project. Prescott resident George Seaman maintained that the city should have subtracted all of its prior commitments from its alternate water budget.
But officials have maintained that the obligation to the Granite Dells and Point of Rocks would not become final until after the city annexes the land into city limits – an action that has not yet occurred.
The scrutiny on the alternate water account caused city officials to look closer at its policy for allocating water. And in November, the council approved a short-term policy that will be in effect until after Prescott hears back from ADWR on its application, which restricts the amount of water that can go to any one project, and discourages allocation to projects that require a zoning change.