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|Seven Springs water removal still a controversial issue
Sold as Sedona Springs Water
By Curtis Riggs
DESERT FOOTHILLS – In the middle of the worst drought in
a century, water from the spring at Seven Springs is still being
transported out and sold as Sedona Springs (bottled) Water.
The Cartwright Ranch has a 90 acre-foot annual water right. Documents from the Arizona Department of Water Resources show that 60 acre-feet of this water is to be used for domestic use annually, and that 30 acre-feet of the water is for irrigation. The water right dates back to 1866 when the Cartwright Ranch was established.
ADWR officials have not yet ruled on the legality of trucking the water out to be sold. ADWR Public Information Officer Jack Lavelle said ADWR only records water claims filed before 1919.“Our involvement in those claims is minimal,” he said.Concerning cases where water is taken off of a property to be resold, Lavelle said, “We haven’t found our way through the legal thicket yet.” In a March 12, 2004 letter, ADWR Surface Water Rights Specialist Louise Hutchinson reminded Newman that the water is to be used for the purpose on file with ADWR. Her letter came after the ADWR water right was amended. “Finally, you should be aware that the amended statement of claim is your sworn statement that the water was used for domestic and irrigation on the date the water was first used beneficially,” she wrote.
Newman, a rancher who moved to Seven Springs from eastern Arizona, said the family intends to sell off 10 percent (3 million gallons) of the water claim a year. To expedite removal of the water a water pipe was installed in a former irrigation ditch earlier this summer. Newman said he planned to hold community meetings about the water removal earlier this summer. There has been no word of any public meetings since.
The United State Forest Service is involved in this controversial issue because of the campground at Seven Springs. The Forest Service could restrict access to the spring because it controls the roads to it. Late last month, Tonto National Forest District Ranger Delvin Lopez developed some talking points concerning the water removal.He stressed that the Forest Service has an in-stream flow certificate for 488 acre-feet of water a year from Seven Springs Wash.
Seven Springs Wash dried up this year as it did last year. Earlier this summer Newman claimed that removing water from the spring did not cause the wash to go dry. “When the private landowner (Newman) and the Forest Service realized the challenge, they cooperatively worked together to implement a solution that protected both party’s water interests,” is one of Lopez’s talking points. “By jointly metering the amount of water flowing from the pipeline, both the private landowner and the Forest Service are ensured of their proper share of water. All water excess to the private landowner’s claim is returned to the drainage at the spring.”
Some close to the situation take issue with the claim that any of the water is returning to the drainage at the spring since the water pipe was installed. The spring at Seven Springs feeds into Cave Creek Wash. While people living in areas like Camp Creek that are closer to Seven Springs are upset about trucking out the water, people living in Cave Creek should be more concerned because the water is supposed to drain in this direction.
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area Supervisor John Gunn is worried about the loss of water to Spur Cross and the rest of the Cave Creek basin. He said he would like to see the legitimacy of the water claim be dertermined. “Is the 90 acre-feet based on a historical use?” he asks. “I hope that we can figure out the legitimacy of the enterprise,” he adds. “The governments should be looking at the situation and doing their jobs.”
Cave Creek Town Councilwoman Grace Meeth would like to see the
council discuss the matter at a future meeting. ‘It’s a
huge worry,” she said. “Maybe we should put it on an agenda
to talk about it?” Cave Creek Mayor Vincent Francia said he would
like to make sure the water removal is negatively affecting Cave Creek
before the council takes up the matter. He favors forming a commission
to study it. Francia, however, does not want to wait until it is too
late before taking action. “I don’t want to wait until the
point where it’s already affecting the community,” he said.
Stones from Hohokam ruins can still be seen in Spur Cross Ranch recreational area
©2004 Sierra Club Saguaro Group
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