Thu, Feb. 27

Water group discusses housing development near Verde headwaters<br>

It's not yet time for the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee to take a stance about how a controversial Paulden-area development might affect the Verde River.

The committee's technical advisory group is recommending that the committee wait for the Arizona Department of Water Resources to respond to a complaint from the Salt River Project (SRP).

The state granted a 100-year adequate water supply certificate to the Rancho Cielo development 10 years ago, concluding it has sufficient water to meet the development's demands for 100 years. The state recently concluded that certificate still is valid.

Rancho Cielo, formerly the Headwaters, would have 1,266 home and townhome sites plus an 18-hole golf course on approximately 700 acres near Paulden. The county government has given the developers the go-ahead to build 158 of those homes on 51 acres.

The project is about a mile from the springs that some scientists believe supply up to 80 percent of the upper river's flow.

SRP is asking the state to rescind its certificate until the developers prove they have the legal authority to withdraw surface water from their well.

SRP, which owns some of the most senior water rights on that river, contends that the well will draw down the river's flow since it will be located near the headwaters of the river. Verde Valley residents and their county Supervisor Chip Davis have expressed similar concerns.

The well will be 7,500 feet north of the confluence of the river and Granite Creek, and about 7,300 feet northwest of the primary Verde springs, the county water committee's technical advisory group wrote.

SRP's letter to the state contends that the water consultant for the development made erroneous conclusions, and notes that new information gathered during the past decade backs up its contention that the aquifer below the development and the river are interconnected.

A recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling says a well uses surface water if it is located in the sedimentary rock called alluvium, or if the well's cone of depression intercepts that alluvium. But the state hasn't yet developed a standard for the cone of depression test, the technical group wrote.

"In this instance, it is unlikely that pumping would impact the saturated Holocene alluvium given the large groundwater gradient between the well and the Verde River," the advisory group concluded.

The county water committee will talk about the advisory group's recommendation during its monthly meeting Wednesday in Chino Valley.

The committee is meeting a week earlier than usual because of the Thanksgiving holiday. The meeting starts at 2 p.m. today at the Chino Valley Health Facilities building, at the corner of Road 3 North and Voss Drive.

Other items on the agenda include:

• Discussion about potential legislative bills concerning water.

• Discussion and possible action concerning the Cottonwood Water Works proposal to drill a well at Haskell Springs.

The water company is seeking Central Arizona Project trust fund money to help with the project.

The county water committee and neighbors have concerns about water-level declines in the Haskell Springs area between Cottonwood and Clarkdale. But the water company is saying its well would be in a deeper aquifer that has no hydraulic connection to the upper aquifer that is experiencing water level declines.

The water committee should request a technical review of the hydrology and geology of the area before the state approves the grant application, the technical group is advising.

The public can comment on the application through Friday.

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