Fri, July 19

Supes exceed budget for studies

The U.S. Geological Survey, which is conducting most of the study, also is contributing $45,000.

With the supervisors' vote, the committee's budget went $17,000 in the hole. Supervisor Chip Davis cited that problem and said other organizations should be helping to pay for the work.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources should contribute more to the study, he said. The department has contributed money in the past through the legislative-approved Rural Watershed Initiative.

The study will help the Department of Water Resources (DWR) in its work surrounding the Gila River system adjudication process in court, Davis said. The Verde, Hassayampa and Agua Fria river basins all are part of the larger Gila River system.

"If DWR wants the information we've obtained, they ought to pay for it," Davis said.

Private interests who might benefit from the work, such as mining companies, should pay to access the information, too, Davis said.

The county should make a list of other organizations that benefit from the work, and ask them for help, Davis said.

While the information is public record, the county can charge companies that want to use it for commercial applications, Deputy County Attorney Randy Schurr said.

Supervisor Gheral Brownlow suggested that the Water Advisory Committee also should re-evaluate the shares that the county and its municipalities put into the committee's budget.

Right now, the shares are based on population. But some unincorporated parts of the county aren't in the Verde River basin, and much of the money goes toward studying that area, Brownlow explained later.

He also thinks the committee needs to consider pooling its resources to get involved in the massive Gila River adjudication process.

He wants to talk with the committee about that idea when the supervisors conduct a joint meeting with the committee on Feb. 20.

"The whole county is going to have to stick together on that thing," Brownlow said Tuesday.

And judging by statements from the Salt River Project lately, the Verde Valley communities and their well owners have a larger stake in the court adjudication process than the upper Verde River communities, Brownlow said.

The Salt River Project, the state's second-largest water provider, is saying that thousands of wells in the Verde Valley actually are pumping surface water that fills the Verde River. SRP has some of the most senior surface water rights on the river.