Thursday, April 2, 2009

Signs of Progress in the Gila Adjudication?

According to a news report from up in the Verde Valley, signs of visible progress in Gila Adjudication are apparent. For those unfamiliar with the adjudication process, this is the largest court case in Arizona and one of the largest in the U.S., with somewhere on the order of 30,000 parties or water rights holders, seeking adjudication of their rights. The adjudication process is designed to assign both priority and quantity to all surface water rights in the Gila River system.

The article reports that the adjudication of rights along the San Pedro River are nearing completion and that the Arizona Geological Survey is progressing with its mapping effort of the Holocene Alluvium along the Verde River. This mapping effort is intended to permit compliance with one of the key court rulings from the adjudication declaring that all wells pumping within the subflow zone of the rivers would be required to file for surface water rights (prior appropriation rights). This subflow zone was defined by the court to encompass the full extent of the Holocene alluvium along those rivers. So this mapping effort will effectively decide which well owners are to sucked into the adjudication (assuming they aren't already in it) and could impact their ability to pump water from their wells.

As to the final adjudication of rights along the San Pedro, I know that there are still hearings occurring related to some of the federal reserved rights in that basin - i.e. San Pedro Riparian area, Aravaipa Canyon - but because there is historically limited water in the river the number of surface right claimants should be fairly low compared to say the Verde. So I think it would be safe to say that this tributary is further along than anywhere else in the Gila system. But I think in terms of overall progress of the adjudication the thing that resulted in the most progress being made was the settlement of nearly all tribal rights to water from the Gila. While its encouraging that mapping is proceeding on the subflow issue I don't see significant evidence that the pace of progress in the adjudications has picked up recently.

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