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Sat, Aug. 24

Studies still linger, but water committee wants to start plan now

Yavapai County, state and federal agencies have spent more than $4 million in four years on Upper Verde watershed studies to learn more about how much groundwater is available in its aquifers.

"The Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee actually gets a lot of attention," Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Chair Chip Davis said Wednesday during a meeting between the board and its Water Advisory Committee. "I think [the Arizona Department of Water Resources] recognizes we’re trying to solve our own issues, and they’re not dictating to us."

The U.S. Geological Survey has been conducting the Upper Verde studies.

A conceptual computer model of the Upper Verde basin geology and hydrology should be ready in about a year, Committee Coordinator John Munderloh said.

It will be 2007 before the committee has a numerical model that it can manipulate with different numbers and hypotheses.

"The whole thing is to find out where the water is out there," Supervisor Gheral Brownlow said.

But the committee plans to start working on a regional water management plan right away, now that it has finished nine months of educational meetings about water issues.

"There’s an old saying, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,’" said Tom Whitmer, statewide water planning manager for the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

His agency encourages the committee to start working on its water plan now, Whitmer said. The committee always can revise the plan as new information arrives, he added.

One of the first steps in the regional water plan will be to figure out the regional goals, the committee and supervisors agreed.

The goals of different parts of the Verde watershed may end up being different, said committee member Larry Tarkowski, who also is Prescott Valley’s public works director.

For example, the tri-city Prescott Active Management Area has a state-mandated goal of "safe yield" by 2025, meaning it can’t deplete its groundwater supply.

But the Verde Valley may choose a different goal, Tarkowski said.

One goal certainly will be to make sure the Verde River doesn’t turn into a trickle, Davis said.

"There will be no action taken [by the Prescott AMA governments] that will harm the river," Tarkowski said. "We’ve said that repeatedly."

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