Supervisors, WAC hash out issues

Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis said Wednesday he was disappointed that the county's Water Advisory Committee did not get involved in "monumental" state water legislation.

But it appears that even if the Legislature approves a bill to give counties the ability to reject subdivisions without adequate water supplies, Yavapai County might not be one of the counties to adopt such an adequacy rule.

The latest version of the bill requires a unanimous vote of a board of supervisors to adopt the adequacy rule, and Supervisor Carol Springer said Wednesday that she doesn't like the bill. After Wednesday's meeting, fellow supervisors Davis and Tom Thurman said they would vote to adopt the adequacy rule.

The supervisors met with their Water Advisory Committee Wednesday in Clarkdale to talk about the 8-year-old committee's accomplishments and goals. The committee's members include representatives of every municipality and tribe in the county.

Davis criticized the committee for not getting involved in important state water legislation this year, but others said it's hard to keep up with what the Legislature is doing. Some committee members also recalled how a previous board told them to stay out of policy matters.

Thurman questioned whether an advisory committee should get involved in legislative issues anyway.

The committee is a conduit between scientists and the supervisors for water information that will help the supervisors make good decisions, he said.

"This is the top of all water groups" in this county, Thurman said, noting how plentiful such groups have become. "Every one of these other groups seems to be antagonistic."

The committee's ultimate goal is to quantify the amount of water available in this county that depends so heavily on groundwater versus surface water, Springer said. Thurman agreed.

Jerome Council Member Jane Moore, who has been involved with the committee since its inception, said the committee is an important vehicle for communication between the Verde Valley and Prescott area, which have had their share of water battles in the past.

"I think it's important to bring people together," Moore said. "We are all connected."

The supervisors and water committee agreed to meet about every three months until they straighten out some issues.

They plan to meet next in May. Davis listed four topics he wants to discuss:

• A list of upcoming water committee projects including costs and timelines.

• An organizational chart that will help the board, committee and committee coordinator communicate more effectively.

• How can the committee go about providing recommendations on policy? For example, should municipal members adopt policies before the county board will consider them?

• How long should committee members serve before reauthorizations or changes?

At its next meeting in April, the water committee expects to review a draft countywide water conservation plan.

The committee also will discuss whether the state-mandated Local Drought Impact Group should be one of its subcommittees.

At a February Local Drought Impact Group formation meeting that included various local government officials, people agreed that it would be best to make the group a subcommittee of the county water committee to prevent creating yet another separate water group.

"I don't want to stop here," Thurman said. "I want to talk about other groups that could be under the Water Advisory Committee."

But after talking for nearly three hours, the supervisors and committee tabled discussion about how the committee should relate to the Verde River Basin Partnership and the Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition, both of which have existed for about a year or less.

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