Originally published Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 08:12p.m.

Let me explain in simple terms why the City of Prescott’s proposed new water policy is a sham. Despite what our mayor said in his latest guest column in this newspaper, the truth is the city has paper water available only for new growth.

Paper water, being water that is not replenished nor sustainable, is referred to as an overdraft. This is because the City of Prescott is already significantly depleting or overdrafting the source of its water, i.e., the Little Chino Aquifer by pumping the multiple wells it owns in the Chino Valley area. And the city’s recharge efforts may only be around 60% effective (primarily due to the evaporation loss of residential and commercial landscape irrigation) and any recharge may not reach the point of withdrawal in the Chino Valley area for another century!

Now the city wants to use the water you conserve for additional new growth. Yes, that bears repeating — the city wants to use the water you dutifully conserve for even more growth. This additional new growth would be on top of the already approved growth numbering around 12,000 new homes and if the Arizona Eco Development proposals are approved, expect the total of newly approved homes to be around 15,000. But the city’s proposed new water policy would push the cumulative total number of homes significantly higher, skyrocketing our population to as much as 85,000 without having a sustainable water supply!

Not only would the city’s newly proposed water policy significantly exacerbate traffic problems pursuant to the enhanced new additional growth, it would accelerate the overdraft of the Little Chino Aquifer. Maybe proponents of this new water policy don’t care if a consequential financial impact is imposed on someone else as long as they are not our immediate neighbors, but accelerating the overdraft of the Little Chino Aquifer will result in more and more residents in that area losing their wells. And the cost of installing a new deeper well could be around $30,000, a financial hardship many in the area simply can’t afford.

But perhaps the saddest is then yet to come. Because after the city essentially destroys the Little Chino Aquifer through approving this additional growth, they will have effectively backed us into a corner of then approving the Big Chino Water Project. Not only will this last-ditch effort to solve reckless new growth prove to be extremely costly to residents, it will likely eventually destroy the upper stretches of the Verde River, being the last perennial river left in Arizona and habitat to many important and diverse wildlife species.

Yes, actions have consequences. If approved, the ripple effect of the city’s misguided proposal to appease developers will have dire effects. You would think our city officials would be mindful regarding our Arizona history on rivers and depleted groundwaters, not make the same mistakes and reject the handbook on how best to destroy a river.

Joe Zarnoch is a concerned Prescott resident who appreciates the importance and uniqueness of the Verde River.