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Thu, Oct. 17

Springer calls for action against dwindling water supplies

Yavapai County Supervisor Carol Springer and Citizens Water Advocacy Group Public Policy Chair Howard Mechanic may not agree on a lot of issues, but they agree that local government officials need to act now to stop depleting their groundwater supplies.

People in the Prescott Active Management Area (AMA) have been talking for nearly a decade about stopping the groundwater overdraft, but no one has done anything about it, Springer said during a meeting of the Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition in Prescott Wednesday.

"It's time for those of us elected as leaders to start leading," said Springer, a coalition member. "If not us, who? If not now, when?"

The Upper Verde Coalition is the perfect group to act, Springer said. Its members include all four of the Prescott AMA municipalities, as well as the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe and Yavapai County.

Fellow coalition members agreed with Springer's request to consider an addition to the coalition's written mission statement during their Sept. 26 meeting.

The addition would state that the coalition wants to end the Prescott AMA groundwater depletion by 2025.

That's the year that the state has set as a goal for "safe yield" in the Prescott AMA. In 1999, the Arizona Department of Water Resources declared that the Prescott AMA was depleting its groundwater supply, an action that triggered new rules prohibiting new subdivisions from using Prescott AMA groundwater.

At the start of her comments, Springer referred to Mechanic's presentation at this past month's coalition meeting.

"I think Mr. Mechanic's suggestion is a good one," Springer said.

Mechanic gave a detailed presentation in July about how the coalition should establish a work group to come up with a draft plan for reaching safe yield, as well as a draft plan to protect the Upper Verde River.

Springer said she's not sure that a work group is necessary.

"We have all kinds of water groups," Springer said. "I would solicit suggestions from all those groups," and support public meetings.

Prescott City Council Member Jim Lamerson spoke from the audience suggesting that state legislators from this region and the Arizona Corporation Commission get involved.

But the coalition members agreed with a staff recommendation to wait on a response to Mechanic's proposal until a coalition consultant team is on board and caught up.

The coalition voted Wednesday to try to negotiate a contract to hire a group led by a Phoenix company called Burgess & Niple. Its partners in its proposal include Southwest Ground-water Consultants of Prescott, Civiltec Engineering of Prescott, Larson and Associates of Pinetop and Logan-Simpson Design of Tempe.

The coalition wants consultants to help prioritize potential projects to help preserve the flow of the Upper Verde River, which originates in the Big Chino Sub-basin just north of the Prescott AMA and is highly dependant on groundwater.

Mechanic wondered why the coalition needs to wait for a consultant to make decisions.

"They are not just consultants," said Chino Valley Mayor Karen Fann, chair of the coalition. "They are going to be very much a part of a working staff."

Hearing that it could be a few months before the consultants are ready to make a recommendation about Mechanic's idea, Mechanic said, "I'll try to be patient."

Contact the reporter at jdodder@prescottaz.com

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