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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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8/2/2014 6:00:00 AM
Regular city withdrawals affect levels at Watson Lake

Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier


PRESCOTT - While nature has been a major factor in the reduced levels of Willow and Watson lakes, regular withdrawals from the lakes - especially Watson - have contributed as well.

When the city bought Willow and Watson from the Chino Valley Irrigation District in 1998, part of the plan was to regularly withdraw water from the lakes to increase the city's recharge into the aquifer. In turn, the city would receive credits in its water portfolio.

Through the years, the city has recharged thousands of acre-feet of lake water in its reclamation facility near the Prescott Airport.

To make the withdrawals, city workers open valves on the dams and allow water to flow out of the lakes and into a pipeline, which directs it to the airport facility where it is allowed to percolate into the ground.

Prescott Utilities Manager Joel Berman explained this week that the city has the right to withdraw from both lakes annually between April 1 and Nov. 30.

But, Berman said, the reduced water levels at Willow have temporarily halted withdrawals from that lake.

"The last time the city withdrew water from Willow was April 2011," Berman said.

At that time, he said, Willow Lake was full enough to warrant the withdrawal. He noted that in order for the city to take water from the lakes, the levels must be within the "conservation-pool" range.

Berman defined the conservation pool as the level set by the City of Prescott that allows recreational uses to occur, but still allows the city to meet its water resources goals.

For Willow Lake, the conservation-pool level is six and a half feet below the spillway.

At Watson Lake, the level at which the city can withdraw water is seven feet below the spillway. Watson is now within that range, and Berman said the city currently is withdrawing water.

So far in 2014, Watson withdrawals for recharge have amounted to about 210 acre feet, Berman said. (An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons of water.)

In addition to the water withdrawn for recharge, Watson Lake also serves as a source for two prior downstream water-rights claims.

Berman said the city is obligated to provide as much as 375 acre-feet of water per year to the Granite Dells Ranch. The water is released upon request, and Berman said the total often does not reach the maximum amount.

So far in 2014, Berman said the water released to the Granite Dells Ranch has totaled 105 acre feet. The water is used for agricultural purposes, he said.

In addition, the city has an obligation to the Payne family to keep Granite Creek "fresh" -  a provision that requires the city to release water from the lake periodically, Berman said.

Those obligations must be met despite the water levels.

"We have to provide the water regardless of the conservation pool," Berman said.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks.

Related Stories:
• Weekend rain pumps up Willow, Watson lake levels


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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: withdrawals from Watson affect Willow

When withdrawals are taken from Watson Lake that is, in effect, taking water from Willow Lake as well. Often Willow relies on Watson filling to near capacity and water then being diverted to Willow. But Watson has to reach within two feet of capacity before that transfer is possible. The City's removal of water from Watson reduces the chance of water being transferred to Willow. So it is disingenuous to act like Willow is being untouched by the City's withdrawals in the last few years.

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: william gauslow

thank you cindy. water shortages seem to on peoples minds. articles like this provide us with facts in stead of rumors.

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Article comment by: Don't like!

Kind of wish I hadn't voted for the City to buy those lakes. They're rarely in recreational shape, which was promised along with their other obligations. It would be nice if they could withdraw in the winter instead.



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