Water Adequacy

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Where does our water come from?

All of the water supplies in the Prescott Active Management Area are from groundwater wells. Prescott pumps municipal water from deep wells located in downtown Chino Valley and transports it via pipeline to Prescott. Prescott Valley obtains municipal water from production wells in the Agua Fria and southern Little Chino aquifers.

Surface water flowing into Watson Lake or Willow Lake is stored for recreational uses, but Prescott recharges certain amounts to the aquifer near the airport. A portion of the treated wastewaters (effluents) from Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley are also recharged to the aquifer. No surface water or effluent is directly sent to the municipal water distribution systems.

What is the problem with water? I turn on the faucet and water comes out. The water bills are reasonable. I don’t see a problem!

Most people won't see a problem in the short term, but that is not an excuse for inaction. The problem is that our water-dependent natural resources are drying up (Del Rio Springs) or are threatened (the Verde River). The problem is that we are pumping groundwater faster than it is being recharged, so we are depleting our water reserves. The problem is that wells in some areas are going dry or need deepening. We need to get our water budget in balance now, before we create an enormous and very expensive problem in the future.

I’m considering moving to Prescott soon, and I don’t want to move into an area with water problems. Should I be concerned about future water supply?

In the Prescott region, we get our water from an aquifer that is being over-drafted. How long the water supply lasts will depend on your water supply. See the questions above for more information.

It is probably best to narrow your search to where you might want to live and then investigate the water supply for that location. Ask your potential water supplier about their well location, depth and the rate of decline, then ask some neighbors. Before you purchase a property with a domestic well, you should absolutely hire a local pump service company to test the well for flow, drawdown, and water quality. The AZ Dept of Water Resources may be able to provide specific information about individual wells and about overall declines.

At our web site you will find an op-ed "How Long Will Our Water Last." Although it won't answer the question specifically, it describes the issue. Our web site has a lot of information about the water issues in our region, but it won't tell you about any specific location.

Although for most people our potable water will last for some time, the declining water table is causing a steady loss of surface water flow and riparian habitat.

Most CWAG board members are retired, live in or near the City of Prescott, and are not concerned about potable water supplies in the near term.  They are vitally concerned about the water supply for people drawing water from the shallow parts of the aquifer, the continuing loss of riparian habitat, and the water supply for future generations.

When will Prescott and Prescott Valley run out of water?

Of all well-user groups, large municipal systems will be least affected by falling groundwater levels. Municipal wells can be drilled in the most reliable and productive water areas; for example, Prescott municipal wells are located outside of their service area, in Chino Valley. As groundwater levels begin to fall, large municipal utilities can adapt because they have the financial capability - bonding authority with a broad user base to share costs - to construct pipelines, to drill new wells, and to treat water. Although falling water levels will affect them through cost increases, they will have water long after other users have none.
Small private water systems typically have less financial capability and as water tables fall may find it more difficult to maintain the required water quality and quantity. Their wells are typically located within their service area, not necessarily in the best spot.
For a more detailed answer, see our op-ed, "How Long Will Our Water Last." Although it won't answer the question specifically, it describes the issue. Our web site has a lot of information about the water issues in our region, but it won't tell you about any specific location.

When will domestic well users in Chino Valley run out of water?

Small domestic wells (exempt from ADWR reporting requirements) that provide water to families in rural Yavapai County will suffer the earliest and greatest effects from falling water levels. Domestic well failures can have devastating impacts on families ranging from a substantial financial cost to loss of a large portion of their most important investment – their home.
Groundwater levels in the Chino Valley area have been falling for decades. Typically, for a well that was drilled 50 years ago, the depth to water will have increased 80 - 100 feet. Domestic wells are now going dry on the margins of the AMA – on the southwestern and western margins of Little Chino Valley, plus at some homes along Williamson Valley Road. In Chino Valley near the highway, some long-established homes have needed to deepen or drill a new well.

Unless we begin to manage our water resources sustainably, the frequency of wells going dry will increase.

What are our city officials doing to make sure we don’t run out of water?

As the groundwater overdraft persists, our water table continues to decline. Estimates by the Arizona Department of Water Resources project greater overdrafts if we do not take strong actions. Our municipalities have reduced per capita water consumption in recent years and would like to import water from the Big Chino Valley, but these individual activities obviously to not involve all users, are not likely to be sufficient to meet anticipated growth, and have considerable uncertainty.

The many community and private water providers in the Prescott region draw water from a common aquifer system. Consequently, we need a solution or plan that involves all of the many users and must address the fundamental issues of how much natural outflow to streams should be maintained and how much groundwater each water provider can safely pump. There are no expressed intentions to develop an area-wide plan.

Won’t the proposed Big Chino pipeline project enable us to achieve safe yield and protect our rivers?

The pipeline project is a joint undertaking by Prescott and Prescott Valley, which could import about 8,000 to 12,000 acre-feet per year of water from the Big Chino valley. That could go a long way toward eliminating the current overdraft if it were all dedicated to safe yield. However the two communities have not apportioned Big Chino water among the competing goals of eliminating the overdraft, providing for growth, and protection of river flows. Nor have they shown how they might mitigate the certain adverse effects of importation on the Verde River. Importantly, they need to be part of a comprehensive area-wide plan to address the issues of overdraft, growth and protection of river flow. As the largest users of our aquifers water, they should be leading the effort for an area-wide plan.

What is the status of the Big Chino pipeline project?

The project is no longer in Prescott’s five-year capital construction plan and a beginning date for construction is uncertain. Prescott and Prescott Valley are currently focused on long-term studies to address issues raised by Salt River Project and others concerning the adverse effects groundwater mining would have on the Verde River. CWAG believes that these studies will confirm the need to mitigate the adverse effects, which would greatly increase the cost of importing water or may render the project infeasible.

Are there other prospects for ensuring a long-term water supply?

There is a major study currently in progress that is being led by the US Bureau of Reclamation and involves all of the public water providers in the Prescott and Verde Valley regions. The goal of the Central Yavapai Highlands Water Resources Management Study (CYHWRMS) is to assess at an appraisal or preliminary level the expected demand and potential supplies out to the year 2050.

Communities in the Prescott and Verde Valley regions are currently evaluating the results of the appraisal study. As of September 2014, it is not clear whether the communities will further investigate (Feasibility Study) any of the alternatives described in the appraisal level study.

In summary, all activities necessary to achieve a sustainable solution, whether it involves one or more water providers or is regional in scope should be developed in the context of an area-wide plan for the Prescott region. It should be comprehensive, fully described and documented and subject to public review. Until one is developed, we can’t be sure we will not run out of water.


  • "Ranchers need clean water for their stock, farmers need it for their crops, every employer needs it to stay in business, and every living thing needs it for life... The law needs to be clear to protect water quality and the rights of landowners."
    Mark Udall
  • "Water is the driver of Nature."
    Leonardo da Vinci
  • "When the well is dry, we know the worth of water."
    Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1746
  • "...and since flow of information is to spirit what water is to life, we'd best think about how to keep the pipes free and unclogged."
    Raphie Frank
  • "In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference."
    Rachel Carson
  • "We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one."
    Jacques Yves Cousteau
  • "Water is life's matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water."
    Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, 1937 Nobel Prize for Medicine
  • "Water is everywhere and in all living things; we cannot be separated from water. No water, no life. Period..."
    Robert Fulghum
  • "It's the water. Everything is driven by the water."
    Mike Thompson
  • "Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over."
    Mark Twain