The state of Arizona is one of the driest states in the US. With water being a scarce commodity, getting Arizona water rights can be beneficial. The state uses the process of prior appropriation to get its water supply. Users get Arizona water rights by being the first to put water resources to beneficial use.
Arizona’s Water Management
Arizona has less than enough water to meet the demand in the state. Arizona must manage its limited water resources carefully. The state’s water management system includes laws and regulations that govern all aspects of water use.
Arizona has several sources of surface and groundwater managed by different agencies and entities. The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) oversees most of these entities. In addition to managing these resources, ADWR regulates how much water can be used by each entity. ADWR has implemented a system to monitor and regulate all water use in the state.
The agency manages dams and reservoirs throughout the state. Reservoirs are used both for flood control and conservation purposes. Dams provide hydroelectric power generation and water storage capacity during drought or low rainfall conditions.
Several agencies and firms supply water to Arizonians. The majority of the water comes from the Colorado River. Several irrigation districts manage projects that pump groundwater from underground aquifers within their areas of jurisdiction. These districts also distribute this groundwater to farmers who rely on it for irrigation purposes during dry periods.
Water Appropriation in Arizona
ADWR oversees Arizona’s water rights and water management. It monitors water usage, requests for water rights, and building capacity. The ADWR keeps track of all claims to check the claims against available supplies.
Arizona has a prior appropriation system for allocating surface water rights. Those who first use the water have senior rights to it. Groundwater rights are based on beneficial use. Whoever uses the groundwater has the right to continue doing so until they cease using it or another person shows a greater need for it.
Water rights are based on how much use someone makes of a particular body of water at any given time. A person who puts their resources into using a certain amount of water will receive that amount as long as it does not harm others who are also using that same resource.
This is done through a permit system. The permit system restricts water use to those who have applied for a permit or license from the state. You apply for a permit to get Arizona rights. ADWR must know where you will use the water and in what quantities. You must have a permit issued by ADWR before you divert or use water.
How Arizona Water Rights Laws Work
Arizona first enacted its formal water rights laws in 1885 during the first territorial legislature. The state adopted the current water code in 1919. This code allows individuals to appropriate water from streams, lakes, and other sources for beneficial uses.
Water rights are based on a priority system that gives preference to those who first applied for the water rights. There are restrictions on how much water users can use, where they can take it, and when to use water resources.
The Doctrine of Prior Appropriation
Arizona has a unique way of managing its water resources. The state uses the prior appropriation doctrine, meaning whoever uses the water first gets it. This is different from most states, where water rights are allocated based on who owns the land where the water originates.
Arizona has used the doctrine of prior appropriation since 1973. The priority system establishes that whoever claims to own particular water use has first claim over the resource. This priority system applies to both surface water and groundwater uses. The doctrine of prior appropriation is the basis for Arizona’s water rights system. It is based on the idea that the first person to put water to beneficial use has a better claim than someone who uses it later.
If someone else has already put water to beneficial use, he will have priority over someone who has not yet done so. Flood control projects receive priority when they are built during times of scarcity. They lose this priority when they are no longer needed for flood control purposes. Some people have acquired prescriptive rights by putting water to beneficial use without applying for an appropriation permit from the state engineer. These people may continue using as much as they want without paying fees or meeting other requirements.
What Is Beneficial Use of Water?
Beneficial use benefits society or individuals by improving their health, safety, or welfare. The most common beneficial uses are municipal purposes (domestic consumption), irrigation, industrial purposes, and recreational activities like fishing and boating. Beneficial use can include all uses that provide economic benefits, such as farming or ranching. It also includes uses that maintain environmental health, like keeping streams flowing or providing habitat for wildlife.
Benefits of the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation
Prior appropriation encourages conservation because it helps those who are useless to continue to have access to water. If there were no limit on how much water someone could use, there would be no incentive to conserve or preserve our limited resources. The doctrine helps with equal distribution among all users, verifying that everyone has access to water when they need it most.
Be Part of Water Management
When you get your Arizona water rights, you can help increase water resources by reducing usage, limiting wastage, or joining conservation efforts. As you conserve water, reduce your use, or join water activism, you will be helping improve the water supply in Arizona. Be part of the change you want!