Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Wed, Feb. 19

Point, counter point: Should the state monitor exempt wells? Yes.

Let's say you and the love of your life are sharing a strawberry shake at Kendall's.

Suddenly someone you've never seen before slides into the stool next to you, sticks a straw in your shake and starts drinking from it.

Aside from his rudeness, you are concerned how much he's taking from a shake you paid for.

There you have a summary of one of the major issues facing folks in the Prescott Active Management Area(AMA).

Back in 1998, the Arizona Department of Water Resources declared the Prescott AMA was groundwater mining. In short, water users were taking more water out of the aquifer than they were putting back in through recharge.

Local governments didn't do the smartest thing in the wake of that information. Between the the declaration's issuance and its effective date in 1999 they approved another 30,000 plats, which is like getting a dun notice on your charge card and running to the mall to charge another $10,000 worth of merchandise.

The declaration says the area must reach "safe yield" by 2025. It provides no intermediate goals and no sanctions if the area doesn't meet the goals.

Because the City of Prescott and the Town of Prescott Valley already are in major water deficit, they have planned to import water from the Big Chino water ranch, to make safe yield. That, as we all know, is a very long way from being a reality.

But an even greater issue is the third straw in the milk shake - exempt water wells in the county. Estimates of how many lie within the AMA vary widely but they could be as few as 10,000 or as many as 13,000.

Because municipalities have meters, they know how much water they use. To get to safe yield in 2025 we need to know how much water we have and how much we are using. Then, Salt River Project willing, we can start to equalize the amount users take out and what they put back in. Each exempt well has the right to pump a maximum 35 gallons per minute all day all year. That would amount to 56.4 acre feet a year.

Obviously, none of them pump that much, but with at least 10,000 exempt wells out there, it would help greatly to have accurate science about exempt well water use in figuring out this complex issue.

Thus, it would make sense - not to charge exempt well owners for their water or to take their water right away but just to know how much they use.

The onus to reach safe yield is on the municipalities - not the exempt users, but they could help greatly if they provided part of the science.

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