Mon, Jan. 27

Supervisors will consider getting involved in water rights case

Yavapai County supervisors will consider getting involved in the Gila River adjudication Monday, but they won't be talking about the role of the Water Advisory Committee.

That's because the Water Advisory Committee itself couldn't agree Feb. 20 about whether to expand its advisory role.

Three committee members – Co-Chair and Prescott Valley Public Works Director Larry Tarkowski, Prescott City Council Member Rob Behnke and supervisor District One representative Jim Williams – didn't want to change the supervisors' original resolution that created the committee a few years ago.

The change would allow the committee to comment on water issues without going through the Board of Supervisors first, as long as the committee makes it clear that it is acting on its own.

The committee may discuss the issue further at its March 20 meeting.

The committee did reach consensus Feb. 20 on whether the county should get involved in the Gila River adjudication process. It made several recommendations that the supervisors will consider Monday.

Recent court actions make it clear that thousands of wells in Yavapai County may be at stake in the court settlement case. The court is attempting to straighten out water rights in the Gila River system that includes the Verde River basin.

The court has concluded that surface water is connected to groundwater, and now it has directed the Arizona Department of Water Resources to come up with tests to determine what wells might actually be pumping surface water and therefore need water rights.

The Water Advisory Committee and its technical advisory group are recommending that the committee or other county designee help coordinate a regional response to the standards that the Department of Water Resources develops.

The committee and its technical experts also are recommending that the supervisors take the following stances:

• Small, private existing wells should be grandfathered and exempt from any decision that they are pumping surface water.

• The court should allow groups of well owners in a specific area to join together in proving they are not using surface water.

The court now requires each well owner to prove individually that his/her well is pumping groundwater, once that well is included in a map showing "subflow zones" that are pumping water that directly supplies rivers and streams.

• The Department of Water Resources shouldn't rush its effort to identify the subflow zones in the Gila River Basin. Instead, it should wait until ongoing studies offer more information, such as the Verde River basin studies that the water committee has commissioned.

The committee's current studies aren't scheduled to be done until 2005, but some helpful information for the court may surface before that, committee Coordinator John Munderloh said.

The supervisors are scheduled to talk about the issue at 10:40 a.m. Monday. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at 1015 Fair St. in Prescott.

Supervisor Gheral Brownlow will miss the meeting because he is attending his first National Association of Counties meeting in Washington, D.C. He said last week that he favors approving the committee's recommendations.

Other items on the Board of Supervisors agenda Monday include:

• 10:15 a.m. – Discussion and possible action to create a Food Safety Council.

1:30 p.m. – Consider approving impact statement for the establishment of the Williamson Valley Fire District, and consider authoring people to start circulating petitions to form the district.

The entire agenda is posted at county office buildings, and on the county's Web site at

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