Originally Published: January 1, 2014 6 a.m.
Two 'Talks of the Town' essays by chairpersons for the Citizens Water Advocacy Group (CWAG) were presented in recent Daily Courier publications. The collective message from these Talks was: keep the groundwater springs flowing that emanate from the Prescott Active Management Area (PrAMA) and the Big Chino sub-basin and don't damage accompanying habitant for endangered flora and fauna.
The two spring flows of primary interest are Del Rio Springs near Chino Valley and the upper reaches of the Verde River between Paulden and the Perkinsville Bridge.
PrAMA was created by the 1980 Groundwater Code and operates under the direction of the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR). PrAMA (485 sq. mi.) is one of five AMAs in Arizona that were established to reduce localized groundwater overdraft and achieve a safe yield by 2025 where annual aquifer water inflow and outflow balance. PrAMA includes the Little Chino and Agua Fria sub-basins and the cities of Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Dewey and Humboldt.
During 1991, the state Legislature granted PrAMA rights to import up to 14,000 AF/YR of groundwater from the Big Chino basin, which, later was reduced to 8,068 AF/YR. On Jan. 12, 1999, ADWR announced that groundwater was being taken from the PrAMA aquifer faster than being replaced (groundwater mining) and, as a result, PrAMA became responsible for achieving a safe yield by 2025. PrAMA's overdraft for 2010 estimated at 14,876 AF/YR.
To achieve its objective, "Watchdog" CWAG is calling for strict enforcement of PrAMA's mandated responsibility of achieving a safe yield by 2025. Also, they oppose any transfer of water from the Big Chino that would, measurably, decrease Verde River flow.
Regarding the PrAMA and Big Chino groundwater situation, there is abundant information available via the Internet and other sources developed by technical personnel that provide meaningful definition.
While CWAG's battle cry, is "safe yield by 2025," "keep the springs and Verde flowing" and "save the Razorback Chub," my concerns are the current drought, inaccessibility of the static reservoirs and accommodation for those (humans), who are in search of the good life.
Not allowing municipality water users to tap into the static reservoirs seems to me to be the wrong path. Static reservoir groundwater is basin water that lies below the elevations where water emerges to the surface via springs. This "untouchable" source has been estimated to be ±4,500,000 acre-feet for the PrAMA and ±10,000,000 acre-feet for the Big Chino Basin. At the current "safe-yield" need of 15,000 AF/YR, with zero recharge, the PrAMA reservoir would last 300 years and for the Big Chino, transferring the allowable 8,068 AF/YR, would last about 1,240 years.
I support much of environmental-related activity that is directed toward cleanup and protection, but when the hyperactive shut down the northwest logging industry with the spotted owl, stop Tennessee Valley dam construction with the snail darter, cripple the coal industry with global warming, etc., then a time comes when the silent need to speak out and take a stand. With thousands of environmental laws on the books, no construction project or business is safe.
In its pursuit of a safe yield, PrAMA's time is now.
Recommendations from research and review of contributions by others:
Bring the Big Chino groundwater transfer on line as soon as possible;
Retain qualified (dig and find) water and land legal counsel. Nuggets are to be found and applied;
Encourage legislation that brings regulation to exempt wells;
Encourage legislation that brings sensible development of the Big Chino Basin Aquifer;
Implement rainwater harvesting and evaporation interception;
Continue expanding effluent treatment and recharging;
Continue encouragement of all methods of conservation;
Pray for the end of drought.
Kenneth Server is a retired mining engineer, spending 41 years in the mineral industry. He has lived in the Prescott area since 1996 and volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul.