Monday, September 8, 2008

State Legislature Loses a Strong Voice for Sound Water Policy

I was greatly disappointed to read recently that Tom O'Halleran, a state senator from the Prescott area, was defeated in last week's primary elections. [check out] Sen. O'Halleran has been a strong proponent in recent years of legislation to permit local jurisdictions in rural areas of the state (areas not governed by the water use regulations of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act) to use water supply availability as a restriction on growth. This was very reasonable, and in no way onerous, legislation that simply permitted cities and counties in those areas to deny rezonings and plan amendments that would permit development in areas that lacked a firm, reliable water supply. Even that legislation was weakened in the legislature before finally passing.
His opponent in the primary expressed a desire to allow landowners to possess clear property rights to the groundwater beneath their property - rights that could not be restricted by government. This is a red herring. Real property rights to groundwater are not possible under the legal system applicable in areas of Arizona outside of AMAs. Groundwater is a common pool resource in those areas, subject to rapid depletion without some regulatory controls.
Hopefully, someone up there will assume the mantle previously worn by Sen. O'Halleran. Without a sensible voice on water policy our legislature has shown great reluctance to do anything helpful for rural water issues.

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