Sandy: Tom, what is one of the first questions folks ask you who are interested in relocating and building a home in Prescott?
Tom: The number one question is, “What is the water situation in the Prescott area?”
Sandy: I am sure the answer to that would be what is the area that someone is interested in living? Water has such a long history in our area, it would be important for newcomers to get some background and history to understand water supplies in the area.
Tom: In 1980, the state adopted the Groundwater Management Act (“the Act”), creating the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) to secure long-term dependable water supplies for Arizona’s communities. Further, to secure dependable supplies, Active Management Areas (AMA) were identified in the state where there were existing or quickly growing populations. Our area is known as the Prescott AMA and includes: Prescott, Prescott Valley Chino Valley, Dewey-Humboldt and many other lands known as unincorporated Yavapai County.
Sandy: Wow, so where does someone start when they are looking to relocate?
Tom: The family should determine which community in the AMA they are planning to live and then have more discussion with the water provider, which could be a municipality or a private water company. If they are purchasing property that is using a private well, then they should contact the ADWR for assistance. The ADWR is responsible for the permitting for all well drilling and the associated documentation.
Sandy: Tom, what are some points of interest about the water supplies in the area?
Tom: Based on the ADWR website, this area consists of two groundwater sub-basins, the Little Chino and the Upper Agua Fria. Depending on where you wish to locate, your water supplies will be associated with one of the two, as the area is predominately served by groundwater supplies. These groundwater supplies are a result of millions of years of water infiltrating into the groundwater system as a result of weather (precipitation- rain and snow)! The ADWR website estimates there are three million acre-feet of groundwater in storage.
Sandy: What is an “acre-foot”?
Tom: Well, people generally describe it as a football field that has one foot of water covering the surface. If you think of it in gallons, that is, one acre-foot of water is equal to 325,851 gallons. Milk comes in those plastic, one-gallon jugs, right? Can you imagine 325,851 milk jugs? Anyway, so then imagine three million times 325,851 gallons…that a huge number!
However, with that large number, it is also important to know that the Prescott AMA’s annual water use is estimated at 20,000 AF/year. This is only an estimate, because private well users are just that – private and exempt – and private well water usage is not monitored by the state. All wells are required to be registered with the state.
Sandy: So, how long can the area keep using groundwater supplies?
Tom: Well, this is where the next piece of history comes in. In late 1998, the area was declared out of
safe-yield. Per ADWR, this means that more groundwater was being withdrawn than replaced. This declaration enacted laws designed to protect the groundwater supplies. The 1998 declaration halted the use of more groundwater supplies for residential and commercial subdivision development (see Arizona Department of Real Estate definition of a subdivision).
Sandy: Based on home permits issued for our region, the area keeps growing. Are there other water supplies?
Tom: Yes, like other communities in Arizona, the state laws require that communities use renewable supplies, like surface water and reclaimed water. No provider in this area delivers these supplies directly, but they follow the state laws for recharging the waters into the ground and then recovering (pumping) them in another location.
Sandy: Hmmm, can you give me an example of this recharge and recovery?
Tom: Well, I don’t know all the details, but for example, the City of Prescott acquired the surface water rights to Watson and Willow Lake Reservoirs in 1998. This surface water is delivered by pipeline to a recharge facility (holding basins that allow the water to percolate into the groundwater system) near the airport. The water is then recovered by pumping wells at their wellfield in accordance with state laws. Similarly, reclaimed water from the community’s wastewater treatment plant is also recycled for use.
Sandy: There is obviously a lot of management of water supplies in the Prescott AMA and we’re likely just scratching the surface!
Tom: Well, yes, but let’s get back to your original question. For those seeking to relocate to the area, they should have some basic awareness that the state has taken measures to address the populations that they knew could develop in this Southwestern state. For more information on water supplies provided by a municipality or private water company, they should contact that provider. If they will be using a private well, then they can contact ADWR for any well records that the previous owner or representation agent may or may not have. Further, with private wells, local well drilling firms also can be a resource for additional information related to wells in the person’s area of interest, especially if the property is located in unincorporated Yavapai County.
Sandy: Water is an extremely important resource and you have educated our readers, Tom, with lots of facts. With groundwater pumping depleting river flows, conservation measures are extremely important to ensuring our water security for both people and nature.
Tom: I agree. Water conservation is important. The City of Prescott on its website has dedicated information to assist homeowners and the community with water conservation.
Sandy: April is Water Awareness Month and I say that every day is a good day to be water aware.
Tom: Water is a serious subject in Arizona. The availability and quality of our water supply is critical to our quality of life and our state’s status as a world-class destination. Efficient water use makes good business sense and there are many opportunities for homeowners to make simple changes to daily habits that will save significant quantities of water.
Sandy: It is worth noting that many of our cities and towns as a whole are relatively efficient with their water use, as are our homeowners by making considerable reductions in their water demands, which result in lower water bills. We should all use this good work as motivation to increase our water conservation performance even further.
Practicing a low water-use lifestyle is a way each individual and business in Arizona can help ensure a long-term, sufficient water supply. You can make a difference in our future by making small changes, starting today. QCBN