by Harvey C. Skoog, Mayor, Town of Prescott Valley
Questions about Prescott Valley water supply frequently occur. And the concern is a legitimate one. Thankfully, we can answer affirmatively. Prescott Valley is in quite good shape regarding the matter of water. We are positioned on an aquifer that our water people claim is about 2.5 times larger than the amount of water in Lake Pleasant. According to the state of Arizona, it would hold our community for at least 100 years, even considering the expected growth.
However, that answer does not cover the whole story. While the aquifer located under us is good, Prescott Valley is part of a large Active Management Area created by the state of Arizona. We have to be concerned about the area as a whole, not just Prescott Valley. The Prescott Valley water system is supplied by about 25 wells, but there has been a modest drawdown of the water table. The entire Active Management Area is being affected by a significantly larger average drawdown, and this is a responsibility that we all share. Although recent rains have been favorable, the previous 20 or so years were affected by a drought, which had an unfavorable impact on the natural recharge of the area.
The 1980 Groundwater Management Act is a reasonable document that sets the rules over water availability and impact thereof. It reveals that the water table has been unfavorably impacted by drawdown. We are required by 2025 to have in place a means of sustaining the water table. That means, we will have to have an outside supporting water source. This is in the works, and we expect that the system will be in place by 2025.
Active Management Areas have laws that restrict groundwater use. To begin with, the rule says that development must be supported by an assured 100-year water supply before they can build. Further, new subdivisions cannot increase draft on the aquifer. Other limitations include no new agriculture irrigation from groundwater, and limits on pumping and water losses. New developments cannot take water from homeowners already here. The law protects water consumers and must be followed.
To the credit of our residents, those who live in Prescott Valley are careful with their use of water and, accordingly, have one of the lowest per capita water use rates in the state. In fact, since the year 2000, per capita water use has declined about 25 percent.
To operate within the limitations and achieve sustainable water levels, we are working with our neighbor and partners to import water from the Big Chino Water Ranch that is jointly owned by Prescott and Prescott Valley. Prescott Valley also has a program to recharge reclaimed water that is working effectively to give us recharge credits. With this and other actions, responsible growth can continue and our water supply will be sustained and protected.