Originally Published: May 10, 2017 6 a.m.
Prescott residents are using less water than was anticipated more than a decade and a half ago – a factor that city officials say should be reflected in the amount of water allocated to new residential development.
On Tuesday, May 9, the Prescott City Council unanimously approved a resolution that reduces the alternative water that is needed to be allocated to new houses and apartments in the city.
That means more alternative water will be freed up for other projects, city officials say.
Regional Programs Director Craig McConnell explained to the council that the current allocation of 0.35 acre-foot per single-family home and 0.25 acre-foot for apartments was determined in 2000 – based on the expected usage of “gallons per-capita per day,” as well the expected occupancy size of Prescott households.
Both factors have been dropping in recent years, however.
“For over 15 years, we’ve been allocating (the 0.35/0.25 acre feet for each new home), but the actual usage has been much less than that, substantially less than that,” McConnell said.
City records from 2010 to 2015 show that actual usage has been 0.17 acre-foot for a single-family home, and 0.09 acre foot for an apartment. (An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons).
To reconcile the amount of water needed to be allocated with the actual amount being used, the city proposed reducing the single-family allocation to 0.20 acre-foot for a single-family home and 0.12 acre-foot for an apartment (for water-efficient residential development), and 0.25 acre-foot/0.15 acre-foot for development not meeting the water-efficient definition.
Along with the approval of the lower allocation rates, the City Council agreed that the approximately 410 acre-feet difference between the overall volume of alternative water allocated to date and the total amount actually being used by projects should be retained in the city’s water portfolio “as a cushion, and not to support additional development.”
The water-allocation discussion prompted some concerns from audience members, who maintained that the city’s alternative water represents “paper water” rather than actual water in the ground.
Local resident Daniel Mattson, for instance, said, “Legal water and wet water are not the same thing,” and he urged the city to continue to work toward safe-yield, the condition of long-term balance between the amount of water being pumped from the ground and the amount being recharged back into the ground.
Resident Judith Merrell added: “We can allocate it all we want, but there’s only so much water.”
McConnell explained that this week’s allocation discussion pertains to “alternative water, as opposed to groundwater.” Alternative water is a component of city’s water portfolio that comes from water credits through sources such as recharge of effluent (treated wastewater) and surface water from Willow and Watson Lakes.
While current residents are served largely by groundwater from the city’s wellfield in Chino Valley, new development that is under consideration must receive allocations from the city’s limited amount of alternative water.
Under the city proposal, the savings in alternative water from the reduced allocation level would go toward non-residential, economic development projects.
Carole Benedict of U.S. Vets-Prescott was hopeful that the change would free up more water for projects such as a proposal for a low-income housing project for veterans.
Noting that U.S. Vets had earlier applied to the city’s Water Issues Committee for a water allocation for the 60-unit project, Benedict said, “Right now, the application with the Water Issues Committee dead in the water.” She added: “I really appeal to the council to approve this measure.”