By Mick Woodcock


Last week we learned of problems in May 1886 with not having enough water impounded at the reservoir to meet Prescott’s needs. This dam for this reservoir was located on Miller Creek, behind today's Arizona Public Service power station near the old railroad bridge. By the middle of July 1886, a flood gate had been created which would allow the mud to be cleaned and keep it from accumulating. Apparently, this did not have the desired effect on water levels.


By the end of September 1888, the newspaper reported water at the reservoir as “getting alarmingly scarce.” In January 1889 a valve at the waterworks froze and burst, which stopped water pumping for ten days. A June 26, 1889 article in the Arizona Weekly Journal Miner stated “The city water works are dry….”


Water continued to be first scarce and then plentiful the rest of the summer. A burst pipe drained the reservoir, and then the boiler at the waterworks required replacement. The Prescott City Council considered leasing the waterworks to a private party. It received two separate leasing proposals and one to buy the waterworks outright, but chose not to accept any of them.


In December 1891, City Engineer Mahoney dug a test hole on Granite Creek near the site of Goose Flats. This site had a good flow of water, and development work started. The Arizona Weekly Journal Miner reported in its January 6, 1892, edition that, “The city authorities are now satisfied with the results of their prospecting and are going ahead with the view of removing the boilers and pumps from their present position and of making this the permanent place for obtaining water.”


By the beginning of April, the city had dug the well and was nearly ready to move the equipment from the old waterworks to the new site. This site was located in the vicinity of today's Prescott Mile High Middle School athletic field. New water pipe was ordered, and a new reservoir prepared. Although only half the size of the old one, its 50,000-gallon capacity was thought to be sufficient for the present.


The June 22, 1892, Arizona Weekly Journal Miner announced that the new system was working and that the pump had run continuously for seventeen hours to fill the reservoir. The jubilation was short-lived, however, when the newspaper once again announced on June 29, 1892, “Notwithstanding the expense incurred in moving the water works to where an inexhaustible supply of water would be obtained there is a scarcity of water at present. The City Council are still in hopes that by extending the tunnel across the creek they will strike the inexhaustible supply.” The city then decreed that every water hook-up should have a meter in an effort to control water overuse. A serious problem occurred in September. Although a fire was supposed to be kept constantly in the boiler at the pumping station in case of emergency, this was not done. Since the boiler provided power to keep the city water mains full, when fire broke out in town, there was no water pressure to fight it, and consequently there was a $15,000 loss of property. The city tried drilling another well, but this ultimately proved fruitless. Other avenues would be explored, leading to water finally being brought in from outside the city.


In an ironic twist, the Arizona Weekly Journal Miner reported on July 12, 1893, “The worse than fallacy of moving the water works to their present location is demonstrated again by the failure of the water supply. While the city well is almost empty, the old dam is full of water and is used for boating and bathing.”


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