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Former U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Bill Meyers predicts the Verde River will begin to dry up once “safe yield” is reached in Big Chino Valley.
By Mike Cosentino
Larson Newspapers

Former U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Bill Meyers predicts the Verde River will begin to dry up once “safe yield” is reached in Big Chino Valley.

The safe yield limit is reached when the annual amount of water taken from the river begins to deplete the river beyond its ability to be replenished naturally from other sources.

Meyers, a water issue activist, summarized local water issues during a recent Citizens Water Advocacy Group meeting in Prescott, including how

pumping from the headwaters of the Verde River will cause it to disappear.

“Two recent USGS reports concluded that groundwater in the Big Chino Valley naturally discharges to the Upper Verde River and that most of the flow of the upper river consists of this discharge,” Meyers said.

“At some point in time, the upper 22-, 24-mile perennial reach of the Verde River will go dry once safe yield in the Big Chino Valley is equaled or exceeded,” Meyers told the CWAG.

“I think that if the communities on the west side of [Mingus] Mountain coupled draconian water conservation techniques [similar to Chino Valley’s recent proposals for its Big Chino water] with direct reuse or recycling of water, we could see a savings in consumption that could actually decrease the pumping demand from the Big Chino and, therefore, maintain a flowing river,” Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig stated.

Unfortunately, many refuse to “accept the hydrologic consequences of present and future groundwater withdrawal in the upper Verde River Basin,” Von Gausig stated.

That means communities are failing to “address the social, legal, financial, and moral

questions associated with these consequences,” he said.

Meyers had harsh words for the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the state water watchdog agency.

“The law requires all irrigation pumping services to report to ADWR and all municipal services to report to ADWR,” he said.

Instead of managing the Prescott area for safe yield, ADWR is simply “keeping score” while a train wreck is in progress, Meyers said.

Meyers dismissed ideas suggested by the Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition as ineffective.

Yavapai County District 1 Supervisor Carol Springer is a UVRWPC member.

“Suggestions to use flood waters to increase recharge are not realistic since trapping flood runoff already occurs naturally and trapping it is illegal,” Meyers told the group.

Meyers said effluent recharge, or treated wastewater, could be used to mitigate the drying up of the upper Verde River, but even that relatively significant source of water will be insufficient to keep up with growth and water demand in the area.

“Although the Colorado River is pointed to as a source [for water outside the area], the river is significantly over-allocated,” Meyers said.

“Average measured flow equals about 12 million acre-feet per year and existing allocations equal 16.5 million acre-feet per year,” he said.

Meyers posed the following questions:

n Is it morally correct to allow population growth on a shrinking water supply?

n Is it morally correct to disregard the water rights of downstream water users?

n Does [the public] simply not care about maintaining perennial flow in the upper Verde River?

“We are allowing growth without an adequate water supply to support it on a perpetual basis. As a result, we are deliberately transferring this extremely complex issue to those that follow us,” Meyers said.

“There are still things that can be done to see that the upper reaches of the Verde [River] do not go dry, but they are difficult and costly,” Von Gausig said.


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