Recent research indicates that despite increasing population and economic expansion, less water is being used in the City of Prescott than 14 years ago.
Since 2014, water usage has decreased about 2% annually on average. Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli led a City Council work study session earlier this spring saying, “I earlier did not have a great handle on our water portfolio, so we decided to get scientific data.”
The City contracted internationally known water expert Gary Woodard to conduct a long-term scientific study begun in early 2018. Conditions of the $25,000 contract with Woodard were that he provide a comprehensive review of past, current and future water conditions.
In 37 years of research about municipal water issues, Woodward has directed and conducted studies around the U.S., including water-use models developed for eight major municipal water departments and two water companies in Arizona.
Woodard found that in 2004, Prescott used 8,000 acre feet (AF) of water. However, in 2018, Prescott used 6,700 AF of water — 1,300 fewer AF. That occurred despite 4,000 new water users being added in those 13 years.
Woodard emphasized that his study involved data collected from water meter and utility data from the city, county and state.
Woodard cited four factors that seemed to be driving decline of water usage in Prescott. They are:
Changing populations — smaller households, more seasonal residents and fewer children and teenagers.
Conservation efforts — rebate-related water efficient programs, enhanced conservation, drought-tolerant water-sensitive landscaping, water reclamation and rainwater harvesting.
“Passive” conservation — conversion to more water efficient appliances such as showerheads, dishwashers, washing machines and toilets.
New construction — new water and energy efficient houses and businesses.
Prescott’s water supply comes from diverse sources. It includes groundwater, surface water and reclaimed water. Additionally in 1998, Prescott invested in two municipal reservoirs that now serve as critical sources for the recharge program. It is in a better position than communities which have only one water source.
The City of Prescott originated what is called the Big Chino Water Pipeline several years ago. The plan was to import water from an aquifer northwest of Paulden.
Woodard said of that plan: “Your investment in the Big Chino aquifer was a smart one. I compare it to life insurance. You want it in hopes that you don’t need it.”
Retired from his former position as a research professor-administrator at the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center and the National Science Foundation-Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology ad Riparian Areas Water Center, Woodard has earned degrees in chemistry, public policy studies-resource economics and a Doctor of Law from the University of Michigan.
Involved internationally with UNESCO on water issues for arid lands, Woodward was co-author of the National Water Act for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Mengarelli and City Manager Michael Lamar both praised the preliminary report, agreeing that future decisions would be based on fact-based information rather than uninformed speculation. They said information being given to the City Council will change the dialogue about water in Prescott and have major policy implications.
Woodard will present the final results of the longitudinal study later this spring in a public meeting.