Talk of the Town: Why water outside of the city makes sense
As you may or may not be aware, I have served on the City of Prescott’s Water Subcommittee for a couple of decades; and, I am so very proud of our water track record. Moreover, I am convinced that what we are discussing regarding the geographical expansion of both our water and wastewater service provisions in the future are really the right things to do.
Frankly, we’ve done an amazing job within the city and now we are well positioned to extend our incredible work into the unincorporated county for the betterment of the Prescott Active (Water) Management Area (AMA). Here are some of my thoughts on why water and wastewater service provisions outside the city limits make sense:
• Unregulated, and at times, failing septic tanks contaminate the aquifer and reduce water quality (in the aquifer) versus a city wastewater system where there is no need for soil aquifer treatment, as, Prescott’s WWTPs produce reclaimed water rated A+ by Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
• City water provisions outside the city can and should require all treated effluent to be allocated at/for aquifer recharge.
• Newly constructed homes return 95% of treated wastewater to the aquifer from recharge versus 12% (on average) untreated wastewater from Arizona septic tanks over a shorter timeframe. Prescott’s recharge basins were sited and designed by professionals to maximize the infiltration rate versus individual septic tank locations sited with no consideration for recharge.
• The city’s current groundwater withdrawal is less than it was in 1999; so, if wells are in fact “drying up,” and the city is actually withdrawing less water than 20 years ago, what is the real cause?
• Between 2004 and 2018, the city added 4,457 (or a 23% increase in) water customer connections; and, over the same time period, the city reduced water usage by 1,323 acre feet (or 143 acre feet/year or a 16% reduction). With this successful record of water conservation, why is the city’s contemplation to extend its efforts into the unincorporated county viewed as a negative?
• With water outside the city limits, the city would mandate xeriscaped lots and the usage of a native plant pallet (neither is currently regulated in the unincorporated county) for landscaping.
• With a 30% “up charge” on unincorporated users, the city could consider merging its water and wastewater funds to use added revenue to hook-up current septic users within the city.
• By tying Water Service Agreements to the city’s higher standards in other areas (i.e. road widths/quality, sidewalks, street lighting, etc.), the inevitable growth and development in western Yavapai County will look and feel like Prescott. Also, it helps protect the city’s existing assets such as parkland, trail buffers, Prescott Regional Airport, etc.
• Metered water users just use less water than unmetered users (in the county users are mostly unmetered wells).
• Through the General Plan process, the utility expansion areas in the unincorporated county have already been considered and approved by the voters on multiple occasions. In other words, this is nothing new, and the voters have already said “yes.”
• By providing utilities only where it makes sense in the unincorporated county, we can preserve and protect environmentally sensitive properties like Glassford Hill and Badger “P” Mountain surrounding Prescott by steering development to more appropriate locations.
In closing, as we move forward with the discussion of this important issue, I respectfully request you keep an open mind and think about some of the points I’ve raised.
Steve Blair is a member of the Prescott City Council.