Council Memo

Presentation of Proposed Water Policy Changes on Water Service Outside of City Limits.


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Item Summary


Presentation No. 3 of the Water Policy Study Session Series, Water Outside of City Limits.




On June 11, 2019, the City Legal Department introduced an overview of proposed water policy and codes changes.  This presentation, Water Outside of City Limits, is the third in a series of presentations that will discuss the draft policy.




Meeting History

Jul 9, 2019 1:00 PM  City Council Study Session Meeting
draft Draft

This item was presented as a panel discussion before City Council, with Leah Hubbard, Water Resources Specialist, Clyde Halstead, Senior Assistant City Attorney and Public Works Director Craig Dotseth.

Mr. Halstead began the presentation to Council regarding the third set of items pertaining to Water Service Outside of City limits, the goal of any amendments to this part . Goal is to capture exempt wells and septic systems that exist within the city system.

Potential Benefits:

* Reduce Overdraft in AMA - any new service would have to abide by all city rules and regulations; limit is set based on the users and there are thousands of exempt wells that we are unaware of the amount of water that is being used

* Improve Water Quality - creeks, streams and aquifers

* Increase Recharge

* Decrease Lost Water

Ms. Hubbard continued the presentation with a discussion of the current status of water provided outside of city limits:

* The City currently does not provide “new” water connections outside of city limits

* Development outside of city service area is supported by “exempt” wells or private hauling - approximately 97% of Prescott AMA Well types are exempt

Environmental Coordinator Matt Killeen continued the presentation with a review of types of water service outside of city limits:

* Exempt wells - exempt from state law and annual reporting

* Septic tanks - more than 90% of septic water evaporates and does not recharge

* Water Quality - water making it back to aquifer is of poor quality which impales creeks and lakes.

Mr. Dotseth continued the presentation with additional discussion regarding potential benefits of providing service outside of city limits, including the potential for a 50% increase in availability of rechargeable water. He also provided an overview of the proposed expansion area map which would include 45,966 accounts and 12,732 acre-feet per year.

Councilman Sischka asked if this number of 45,966 accounts includes the entire service area or just the expansion area.

Mr. Dotseth clarified that this number is all existing and potentially new accounts.

Councilman Blair asked what the cost would be, if any, to ensure that our facilities are equipped to serve this number of accounts.

Mr. Dotseth confirmed that we have been modeling the system and any updates to be capable of handling "total build out" over there years so there would be no additional or unexpected costs.

Councilman Sischka asked the City Manager if these updates were to be made to the policy if it would be possible for us to demand that they live up to our landscape criteria.

City Manager Michael Lamar responded that we could and should do just that.

Councilman Lamerson commented that the 45,000 number is not accurate given that there would be future areas potentially coming into the City which are not being accounted for.

Mr. Halstead stated that the currently forecasted annexations have already been built into the model, but confirmed that future annexations are not accounted for. However, he did reiterate that there is additional headroom of approximately 4000 acre-feet that could be used to service that if necessary.

Councilman Goode expressed his concerns that we don't know what the future demand or annexations would be and that we need to be discussing a plan to reach safe yield. He also asked what the cost would be to extend water to non Prescott residents relative to the benefits that are being discussed.

Mr. Dotseth stated that any new project that would come forward would be responsible to take water out to the project, and the City would not be responsible for those costs. For example, new service may be permitted within the “expansion zone” through a feasibility study to be conducted by applicant to determine if the project is possible, have a cost/benefit analysis done for a commercial developments and subdivision and then Council would have final approval, and the City would not bear the cost for that process.

Mr. Lamar also reminded Council about the 30% surcharge that exists for water provided outside of city limits which would help to alleviate any issues with additional costs that may come up.

Councilman Lamerson reiterated that would could also set terms and conditions on which water would be extended, for example that it has to be recharged in the final review.

City Attorney Jon Paladini also discussed the fact that this is a permissive policy, the City would require sewer tie-in, infrastructure availability or expansion, city codes and policy compliant, abandonment of wells and septic tanks, and having outside city water rates apply. Any additional terms and conditions that Council feels are appropriate could also be added on a project by project basis.

Mr. Halstead further discussed the cost/benefit analysis that would need to be done for commercial and subdivisions, and that the final determination and review by Council would determine the cost.

Councilman Lamerson asked if a commercial business is adjacent to the City and requests to be put onto City water, if we could also require that that enterprise would have to "come into the city" paying property/bed taxes and the like.

Mr. Halstead said that this is a possible scenario and provided the example of other municipalities like Phoenix which have a similar policy.

Mr. Paladini clarified that they would still have to meet the minimum requirements for annexation however.

Mr. Halstead commented that the benefit of making these changes will impact the AMA as a whole and not just the City of Prescott, as we've historically been the leader in conservation within the AMA this is a step toward continuing that.

Councilman Goode commented that the issue is the fact that the AMA does not have a safe yield requirement, which makes it difficult to say if this policy would be beneficial in the long run.

Mr. Lamar commented that whatever recharge is directly recharged and not used for further development helps with reaching safe yield.

Mayor Mengarelli commented that this is not just an automatic giveaway of service outside of City limits, rather it gives Council the opportunity to review each project that may be interested. He said that he is excited for the opportunity to help manage more of the AMA by brining in more water, and that he feels the 30% surcharge will more than cover the potential costs and help with aging system in the City. Changes like this give us the opportunity to water certain areas of the county which could be beneficial for the City moving forward.

Councilman Sischka also commented that in addition to the benefit provided to the City and the AMA as a whole, we would not be required to provide police, fire or road maintenance in these areas if they are not annexed in so it is an excellent way to ensure that we are water and financially healthy.

Mayor Pro Tem Orr said that she appreciates that we are being proactive and taking leadership with regard to water and thanked staff for their work.

Mr. Halstead continued the presentation with a review of the Application Process:

* Application - to include feasibility study and cost/benefit analysis as applicable

* Review by Water Issues Subcommittee

* Approval by Council

Leslie Hoy, Prescott Resident, addressed Council stating that some of this sounds good but there are alarm bells going off because she doesn’t see why we would do this and not annex properties in. The only reason she can think of is water credits for the affluent. She stated that as a member of Prop 400 Commission, she would like to remind Council what is in the City Charter and the additional requirements for establishing annexations. She asked if the policy is passed will the water be used for further growth rather than to save yield. He second concer, is that we don’t have an overall vision as the general plan is not adequate in her opinion, we need a vision for our community that the whole community is involved in.

Howard Mechanic, Prescott Resident, addressed Council regarding this good proposal however, stated that he has one suggestion as Prescott is the only community that is helping the whole AMA he feels it is time for unilateral actions to end and the City should get other municipalities to the table. He said that none of the credits should go to recharge until we get all parties to come together to develop safe yield plan. This is our last good chance.

Ralph Hess, Prescott Resident, addressed Council regarding his recent attendance at a campaign event where Mayor Pro Tem Orr presented the 2018 Water Use Report which showed total recharge over the last 13 years and it stood out to him that only two of the years have we recharged more than we have pumped. He is concerned that over the course that time we are not recharging what we are pumping out so will this proposed policy really address the issue of safe yield if all parts of AMA are not involved. He asked if there is a plan to work with other jurisdictions to establish that and if we have considered any other alternatives to bar users of septic systems from polluting our water source.