Mon, Feb. 24

Big Chino users look for accord

Directly following the Big Chino aquifer tour, Prescott-area officials once again reiterated their strong desire to use Big Chino water.

Chino Valley Town Manager Carl Tenney led the pitch to the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee during its monthly meeting.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources has set a goal for this active management area to balance its groundwater use by 2025. The state calls that "safe yield," or taking out the same amount of water that goes back into the aquifer.

"Importation is an essential step in meeting our goal," Tenney told the committee.

If the Prescott Active Management Area (AMA) communities do import Big Chino water, they will have two guiding principles:

o Protect downstream water rights.

o Preserve the flow of the Verde River.

The 14,000 acre-feet that the Prescott area has the right to pump from the Big Chino amounts to just 4 percent of the water that flows into Horseshoe Dam below the Verde Valley, Tenney said.

He made the same point last month to the Governor’s Water Management Commission, of which he is a member. The commission is reviewing current state water laws and will recommend changes. And the Prescott AMA is the only AMA in the state without access to Colorado River water through the Central Arizona Project, Tenney added.

The Prescott AMA’s population is only 3 percent of the Phoenix AMA, Tenney added.

"We’re small potatoes," he said. "We’re having a hard time understanding some of the concerns downstream."

The Prescott AMA is concerned that the governor’s commission may try to limit some of the tools it has to meet its safe-yield goal, Tenney said. Those tools include the Big Chino pipeline.

Without those tools, the Prescott AMA communities may support a different goal, such as "sustainable yield," which is a planned draw-down of the AMA aquifer, Tenney said.

Verde Valley officials on the county water committee didn’t like that idea. They wondered if sustainable yield is the same as the "planned depletion" goal of another AMA.

"This planned depletion, I would have an impossible time supporting that," Clarkdale Town Council Member Rennie Radoccia said.

"Setting a goal for planned depletion is the same as planned obsolescence," added committee Co-Chair Tony Gioia, a Camp Verde Town Council member.

Committee Co-Chair Larry Tarkowski, Prescott Valley’s public works director, noted that areas outside AMAs such as the Verde Valley don’t have any state-imposed requirements on regional water use.

The Prescott AMA communities are committed to the safe-yield goal, Tarkowski said.

"We challenge you to do the same," he told Verde Valley officials.

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