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Sun, Dec. 08

ThinkAZ studies water supply in Prescott Valley

PRESCOTT VALLEY – An independent public policy group named ThinkAZ recently released a study that says exempt wells pose the largest threat to the Town of Prescott Valley’s long-term water supply.

ThinkAZ named the report, “An Analysis of the Water Budgets of Buckeye, Payson and Prescott Valley,” and is available at www.thinkaz.org.

Rita Maguire, the CEO of ThinkAZ and the former director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said in a news release, “Attempts have been made to limit construction of exempt wells or to reduce their pumping capacity. However, the real estate and construction industries have successfully lobbied the Arizona Legislature to not take any action.”

During water meetings in recent months, representatives from Chino Valley, Prescott and Prescott Valley said that exempt wells could prevent the Prescott Active Management Area (AMA) from reaching the state-mandated goal of safe-yield by 2025. To reach safe-yield, water users within the AMA must put as much water into the ground as they take out to use. Municipalities with wastewater plants return water to the ground by processing wastewater into recharge water. Well owners use septic fields or tanks to store wastewater, which do not recharge the aquifer, according to some tri-city leaders.

Town Manager Larry Tarkowski said the Prescott AMA’s exempt well owners combine to be the third-largest water user in the Prescott AMA, and that they pose a potential burden to the municipalities that are trying to achieve safe-yield.

“The City of Prescott and the Town of Prescott Valley have clearly stated that we are working to reach safe-yield by 2025, and we will go ahead and be able to mitigate our safe-yield obligation,” he said. “But, that is the obligation that is created by our water use – meaning the City of Prescott and the Town of Prescott Valley. We can’t be saddled with the water that is consumed by other users … meaning the exempt wells and/or agriculture.”

During a Monday meeting of Gov. Janet Napolitano’s Groundwater User Advisory Committee, members voted to create a subcommittee that will specifically study all of the potential impacts of the exempt wells, Tarkowski said.

“What this subcommittee is going to begin exploring is ways to deal with safe-yield as a management goal and the responsibility that should be borne by all of the users within the AMA,” he said. Tarkowski said that the group has not selected subcommittee members yet but will do so in the near future.

It appears that no easy solutions exist for the exempt well situation. Yavapai County Supervisor Tom Thurman said during a recent regional water summit that building pipes and pumps to connect rural homes (that use exempt wells) to recharge systems would be unreasonably expensive. During the summit, nobody objected to Thurman’s comments.

The ThinkAZ report also noted that state and local leaders need to cooperate to resolve the safe-yield issue within the Prescott AMA. Tarkowski said, “I believe that everybody is working together very well to deal with the sustainability for our communities.”

Contact the reporter at jkamin@prescottaz.com

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