2021 Prescott Election Q&A: What is the future of the Big Chino Water Ranch? Will the pipeline ever become a reality, and how would you pay for it?
For now, the Big Chino Water Ranch (BCWR) acts like a ‘rainy day’ water savings account for Prescott. At the present time, there does not appear to be a need to proceed with a pipeline. In addition, the ongoing studies of the effect of pumping from the BCWR on the Verde River are not yet complete. Once those studies are finished, a long-range plan can be discussed.
My intent is to return to a conservative water policy that’s good for Prescott, and not dictated by developer demands. Water policy is key to safeguarding Prescott’s future. If we continue to manage our water at a sustainable rate, we may not need the Big Chino Water Ranch, nor the pipeline to import water from it.
I plan to work with our regional neighbors on a mutually agreeable conservation policy, to drastically reduce pipeline needs.
This is a challenging issue. There is Prescott Valley’s stake to consider and there is the impact on the Verde River. The pipeline will likely cost close to $300 million. That will create a hefty tax burden for the citizens of Prescott. The impact on the Verde River if the pipeline is to proceed will be detrimental, and likely leave the city significantly exposed to legal action from Salt River Project (SRP).
Prescott owns 54.1% of the Big Chino, and is not in any position or need to tap into the Big Chino for the foreseeable future due to how well we have managed our current water. If and when a pipeline were needed then we should allow our growth to pay for growth.
The Big Chino Water Ranch (BCWR) is a great asset to the citizens of Prescott. The council has had studies done, and those studies show that Prescott is still being responsible to ensure we do not need the BCWR anytime soon. I believe we need to look at the BCWR as an insurance policy, and the only reason we would need it is for growth, so paying for it should come from that growth.
The future of the Big Chino Water Ranch is insurance as well as to preserve the grass lands for antelope habitat and to keep growth from happening in the Big Chino. If the pipeline is built it would have to also include Prescott Valley because they are our partners. Chino Valley may want to opt in as well. Financial would have to be worked out in the future. Could be private-public funding as well.
I truly do not know. Growth pays for growth, and we do not need the pipeline right now. If and when the state requires safe yield rather than it being a stated goal, that might all change. Until then, in order to protect Prescott's Big Chino water right, I'm open to RFPs as an avenue for consideration including existing rate payer deficit and future potential rate payers.
I personally do not think we should develop the Big Chino Water Ranch, or pursue the pipeline. Just like debt, we should try to live within our means in terms of our demand for water. Prescott should be just as concerned about keeping the Verde River flowing as are Clarkdale, Cottonwood and Camp Verde. If the Verde River stops flowing, it will be a black eye on Prescott.