Column: CAP supports Prescott’s water policy changes
Talk of the Town
The Central Arizona Partnership (CAP) has been watching attentively as the City of Prescott has developed proposed changes to the city’s water policy. As CAP has studied the issues, several noteworthy factors have become apparent.
The city’s traditional method of estimating water use was flawed. When population increases were multiplied by historic per capita water use, the resulting water use forecast was skewed, suggesting that total water demand always increased with an increase in population.
The city conducted a credible and comprehensive review of traditional water accounting methods, which demonstrated that not only has water use declined as population increased in the city but also the volume of water use previously estimated for residential water demand was almost double that of the actual water usage.
As a result of very successful water conservation efforts by residents of the City of Prescott, per capita water use continues to decline. CAP encourages the city to continue its role as a leader in encouraging both water conservation and the maximum utilization of non-groundwater resources.
Whether inside or outside the city limits, growth in the region is going to occur. The city is right in anticipating and planning for such growth. To do nothing or “hope” growth won’t occur would be irresponsible and a mismanagement of our precious resource.
The city’s proposal to provide water service outside the city limits has generated the most discussion about the city’s proposed changes to the its water policy. The potential positive result of this proposed change would be, 1) reduction of the installation of unregulated exempt wells, 2) reduction of the installation of septic systems, 3) allow for reuse of wastewater by connection to the city’s wastewater system, thus preserving more of the resource for future generations, and 4) allow for more of the region’s population to participate in conservation efforts on those properties served by the city.
There are many benefits to the city providing water service outside the city limits. The primary benefit is the reduction of aquifer overdraft in the Prescott Active Management Area (AMA). New service outside city limits would have to abide by all city rules, regulations and water conservation requirements, and exempt well water use, which is essentially ‘exempt’ from regulation and conservation, would be reduced.
Water service outside the city’s limits would require that new users be connected to the city wastewater system. This would reduce over time the need for individual septic tanks which provide very little to no aquifer recharge. Conversely, wastewater discharged to the city’s sanitary sewer system and recharged to the aquifer after treatment, provides a significant reduction to aquifer overdraft.
CAP believes that the proposed city water policy changes support water conservation and the region’s goal of safe yield. Simplification of city processes, providing alternatives to unregulated exempt wells and requiring sewer service to ensure recharge that is not possible with the use of septic tanks all help to preserve our water supply, and are environmentally sound practices. Planning for growth and conservation of our water resource is smart, makes sense and has proven to reduce our groundwater use over the decades.
Through collaboration with the regional communities, Central Arizona Partnership advocates for responsible growth, a balance between economic stability and ecological sustainability, judicious management of natural resources and exceptional health care, education and community services.
Rodney Jenkins is the vice president of the Central Arizona Partnership Board of Directors.