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Sat, April 04

Water group seeks law banning golf course groundwater use<br>

The Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee continues to push for a county law banning golf course groundwater use.

Back in June, the committee recommended that the county supervisors outlaw groundwater use on rural golf courses. No Arizona county has such a law.

The supervisors never have turned down a Water Advisory Committee recommendation in the past. The committee's members include representatives of every municipality in the county, plus three rural county members.

But this time around, the supervisors balked at the Water Advisory Committee recommendation. While the supervisors never actually voted on the recommendation, some supervisors said all the municipalities should outlaw groundwater if they want the county to do it.

"I think their comment is very appropriate," said Water Advisory Committee Co-Chair Larry Tarkowski, who is Prescott Valley's public works director. "We ought to step up to the plate if that's how we feel."

Prescott and Prescott Valley already outlawed groundwater use for golf courses. However, the five Verde Valley communities don't have such laws.

But they all have committed to working toward limits on golf course groundwater use, said Water Advisory Committee Co-Chair Tony Gioia, who is Camp Verde's vice mayor. That town's planning commission will vote on a new ordinance next month, he said.

The committee agreed to reiterate its stance against groundwater use in a letter to the supervisors and planning commission, and note that the Verde communities are moving toward their own regulations.

The committee wants its coordinator John Munderloh to read the letter to the planning commission before it votes on a final site plan for the Rancho Cielo golf course Oct. 17.

The controversial golf course development is proposed near Paulden, just one mile from springs that some scientists believe supply 80 percent of the flow of the upper Verde River.

The Rancho Cielo development, formerly called Headwaters Ranch, plans an 18-hole golf course and 1,266 homes on 700 acres. The supervisors already approved a final site plan for phase I of the project, which includes 158 homes and town homes on 51 acres.

Rancho Cielo must comply with the county golf course regulations that took effect in February 2000. Those regulations require a "water budget" that shows how much water the course will need. The developers also must calculate whether the homes eventually can produce enough recycled wastewater (effluent) to wean the course from groundwater use.

The Rancho Cielo water budget concludes that the 81.5-acre golf course and 7.14 acres of ponds will need 439 acre feet of water annually. The developers estimate it will be 13 years to build all the homes, and then they will produce 320 acre feet of effluent annually. They plan to make up the rest of the golf course water needs by collecting storm runoff and storing it in ponds.

You need to own surface water rights to collect that amount of storm runoff, said Greg Kornrumph of the Salt River Project. The Salt River Project owns some of the oldest water rights on the Verde River and uses the water for Phoenix-area customers.

The Water Advisory Committee's technical advisory group reviewed the developers' calculations and concluded they were mistaken about the amount of effluent the homes will produce. The advisory group estimates the homes will produce only 215 acre feet of effluent annually, assuming all 1,266 homes are constructed.

The developers estimate they will need to use 1,710 acre feet of groundwater until all the homes are built.

The technical advisory group estimates those calculations are wrong, too. The golf course will need 2,619 acre feet of groundwater if the development collects storm runoff, or 4,166 acre feet of water without collecting storm runoff, the advisory group concluded.

It appears that Rancho Cielo won't be able to wean itself from groundwater, said Water Advisory Committee alternate member Art Coates, a Paulden-area resident who represents Supervisor Gheral Brownlow's District 1.

"My personal opinion is, golf courses are the most wasteful use imaginable," Coates said.

Like Verde Valley officials, Coates worries that the development's groundwater use will reduce the flow of the Verde River, one of two remaining rivers in Arizona that still flow year-round.

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