Steven Ayers' July 12 column suggests we allow new Big Chino pumping without first requiring proper mitigation of the effects on the upper Verde River. Specifically, he says we should "embrace" the proposed pumping by Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley. He further suggests that after their projects commence, "Efforts to purchase development rights and legislate a solution would be carried out from a position of power, a united county with mutual interests."
I suggest now is the time we have leverage over those municipalities, not after they start pumping. Now is the time to make sure proper mitigation plans are in place. Currently, proposed pumping totals over 60,000 acre-feet per year from Prescott, Chino Valley and new large developments. Mr. Ayers says Prescott has the statutory right to pump. Yes, that's true. But all private developers also have the right under existing state law to also pump. We need a Big Chino water management plan that assures all new pumping will be allowed only if the existing flows of the upper Verde River are maintained.
Mr. Ayers rightly states that about 25,000 acre-feet per year naturally recharge the Big Chino aquifer each year. But if we are to maintain the Big Chino's 80 percent contribution to the base flow of the upper Verde River, we must maintain an outflow to the river from the Big Chino of about 14,000 acre-feet per year. That leaves about 11,000 acre-feet for all other uses of Big Chino groundwater. Prescott alone plans on pumping 8717 acre-feet plus 3,400 acre-feet of water from historically irrigated acreage, leaving nothing for all other users.
The best strategy is not to throw in the towel, as Mr. Ayers recommends, but to demand an enforceable management plan to protect the upper Verde River.