Groundwater Balance Within Reach, According to ADWR

13 December 2013   Melody Reifsnyder
Groundwater balance within reach, state says

The final draft of the Prescott Active Management Area (PrAMA) 4th Management Plan is slated for release by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) in the first quarter of 2014. And it is good news for Yavapai County communities located within the water management area.

PrAMA boundaries encompass the City of Prescott; Town of Prescott Valley; Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation; the Towns of Dewey-Humboldt and Chino Valley; and portions of Yavapai County.  The Prescott AMA is the only area within Yavapai County that complies with State water regulations.  

According to the plan preliminary draft, ADWR developed and analyzed scenarios that show the PrAMA can achieve safe yield by the state designated deadline of 2025. In 1999, ADWR issued a groundwater mining declaration (out of safe yield) for the PrAMA.

“It is possible for the PrAMA to achieve safe yield by 2025, and safe yield can be maintained in the PrAMA as far into the future as about 2070 (at projected growth rates),” as written in the plan preliminary draft  “but it will require importation and use of Big Chino groundwater, or some other supply; a diligent commitment to increasing the proportion of the population on central sewer; increasing the efficient use of all water supplies; and careful management of the storage and recovery of reclaimed water; as well as direct or indirect use of locally available surface water.” 

Safe yield is defined in the Groundwater Management Act (GMA) as “a groundwater management goal which attempts to achieve and thereafter maintain a long-term balance between the annual amount of water withdrawn in an active management area and the annual amount of natural and artificial recharge in the active management area.”

The GMA defined five active management areas within Arizona and established the ADWR as the regulatory body charged with overseeing and guiding progress toward Safe Yield within the AMAs. Each AMA has a governor appointed Groundwater Users Advisory Committee (GUAC) comprised of local community leaders and water managers. Membership on the PrAMA groundwater committee includes John Olsen, former Yavapai County Supervisor who serves as the chair; Larry Tarkowski, Prescott Valley Town Manager; Jim Holt, former director of the PrAMA; and Carl Tenney, former Chino Valley Town Council Member.

According to Olsen, the process to review and vet the plan is lengthy and accomplished in a public forum.

“We are finishing up the informal review process conducted in public meetings of the GUAC,” he said. “The formal public process will begin after the final draft is issued in the New Year.”

Olsen added the plan is a positive step for the PrAMA.

“This plan was written by a state agency and it confirms that our communities have been doing the right things to reach safe yield,” he said. “But we still have a lot of work to do, we must persist with water conservation programs, import Big Chino water, and recharge the aquifer with reclaimed water.  It is important that we continue our work to create secure water supplies.”

Lora Lee Nye, chair of the Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition (UVRWPC) Executive Board and Town of Prescott Valley Vice Mayor, supported Olsen’s comments. 

“We are pleased that a lengthy analysis by an independent agency has yielded this positive result,” she said. “Our communities have committed millions of dollars and countless hours of personnel resources to tackling our tough water supply and management issues.”

The UVRWPC, established in 2006, is a formal partnership between the City of Prescott, Towns of Prescott Valley and Chino Valley, Yavapai County, and Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe. Its mission is to protect the base flow of the Upper Verde River while balancing the reasonable water needs of residents who live and businesses that operate within watershed boundaries. 

John Munderloh, chair of the UVRWPC Technical Advisory Committee and Prescott Valley Water Resources Manager, said the primary goal of the UVRWPC is to support attainment of safe yield while protecting the Upper Verde River. He provided specific examples of how PrAMA communities, both individually and in partnership, have worked to achieve a groundwater balance.

“Our communities have constructed systems that recycle reclaimed water back to the aquifer, and are working cooperatively with Salt River Project to import water from the Big Chino sub-basin without impacting the Upper Verde River.” 

“We also actively develop and participate in water conservation programs, regularly report progress to the ADWR, adhere to State programs that limit development, adopt and utilize ADWR best management practices, and partner with other communities in the AMA and Yavapai County to investigate alternative water supplies, and manage the watershed.  The broad agreement with Salt River Project to import water from the Big Chino into the PrAMA, at some future date, was finalized in 2010.”

The PrAMA 4th Management Plan Draft is available for download from the ADWR website at www.azwater.gov . Regular meetings of the GUAC as well as upcoming public hearings on the will also be posted on the website.