Recharge and Conservation Efforts Paint Positive Picture of City’s Water Supply, Prescott Considered “Gold Standard” of Municipal Water Management
Despite Prescott’s population growth and increased economic development, less water is being used today than was more than a decade ago, painting a positive picture of Prescott’s long-term water supply.
This good news was presented at a City Council work study session Feb. 26 by one of Arizona’s preeminent water experts, Gary Woodard. His study of Prescott’s water supply was prompted by Mayor Greg Mengarelli and City Manager Michael Lamar who called for a comprehensive review of current water conditions as the city plans for its future.
“Since 2004, we’ve added 4,000 new water users but we’re using 1,300 fewer acre-feet of water,” said Mr. Mengarelli. “We wanted to know why this long-term trend occurred and how we continue this important trajectory.”
Mr. Woodard began his study in 2018, collecting water-meter and utility data from the city, county and state, and comparing that information to data across the region and nation. Prescott’s downward trend of water use aligns with what’s happening across the U.S.
“It used to be that growth and economic development were parallel to an increase in water and energy use,” said Mr. Woodard. “Today, nationally, water consumption is decoupled from growth for a variety of reasons.”
Specific to Prescott, Mr. Woodard explained that those reasons include:
- Changing demographics including smaller households, more seasonal residents, and fewer children and teens.
- Active conservation efforts including popularity of drought-tolerant, low-water landscaping, use of more efficient fixtures and appliances in new homes, and the replacement of inefficient fixtures, appliances in older homes.
- A robust recharge program including two municipal reservoirs.
Prescott’s water supply is derived from a diverse portfolio including groundwater, surface water, and reclaimed water which puts it in a stronger position than cities relying entirely on a single source of water that can be more vulnerable to year-to-year precipitation and long-term drought. And to preserve the long-term health of Prescott’s groundwater, voters authorized the city to invest in two reservoirs that serve as a cornerstone of the recharge program in 1998.
In fact, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Prescott’s Little Chino aquifer has 2.3 million acre feet of water. Through the assured water supply program, Prescott has the authority to use a total of 16,500 acre feet per year from all water sources, only 9,400 of which can be groundwater. In 2018, Prescott used just 6,700 acre feet total, down from the 8,000 acre feet used in 2004.
“We’re very pleased with these findings, and we’re looking forward to continuing to decrease water usage and increasing conservation,” said Mayor Mengarelli.
Council city leadership also commended previous elected officials, city management and residents for their commitment to protecting and conserving Prescott’s water supply.
Mr. Woodard is currently finalizing his report and will present it to the city in the Spring. Ultimately, this study will help guide discussions about the future of policy and infrastructure projects such as the proposed pipeline from the Big Chino Aquifer. Based on current usage and these preliminary findings, the current water supply is more than sufficient for current and currently-planned future users.
“Your investment in the Big Chino Aquifer was a smart one – I compare it to life insurance,” Mr. Woodard said. “You want it, in the hope you don’t need it.”
Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr added, “The sense of urgency and timeline regarding the Big Chino infrastructure project will need to be carefully reviewed and discussed. This is good news for the city and region, and it underscores the city’s long-term commitment to making best use Prescott’s natural and fiscal resources.”
The council presentation is attached. A complete video of the February 26 presentation, and a download of the presentation can be found at Prescott-AZ.Gov.