Friday, April 13, 2012

New legislative road block to in-stream flow rights in Arizona

This little beauty apparently just popped up this week as a strike everything amendment to one of the bills in the legislature that was intended to look at creating a new water right in Arizona - to harvested rainwater.  The rainwater harvesting legislation first popped up last year - I wrote about it here at the time.

This new incarnation of the bill is intended to make it much more difficult to establish in-stream flow water rights in Arizona - something that's already challenging enough.  For some helpful background on the issue, check out this summary that was just posted on the website of Montgomery & Assoc., a consulting firm here in Tucson.  Looking at the legislative history of the bill, it started out as a bill to establish a pilot program to demonstrate feasibility of augmenting groundwater supplies by harvesting rainwater and directing it to recharge basins.  Then about a month ago the striker was introduced with the new language setting what appears to be an outrageously high bar to get a permit application considered.  In the past an applicant had to submit one year of flow data, then had 4 years to submit additional data supporting the flow claimed in the permit.  This new bill requires submitting 5 years of data up-front along with a demonstration of the amount of water needed for the claimed use and a showing that there is adequate flows to accomplish the use.  That last part is quite difficult to show because you are establishing a junior right on a stream that is going to be over-allocated from the get-go.  But collecting 5 years of data before you even apply for anything will also be really difficult.

As the piece on the M&A website notes, there have been some issues with previously approved in-stream flow permits, but this change doesn't really do much to address those issues - it just creates a nearly insurmountable road-block to future applications.  I think this is a bad idea for the future of environmental water uses in Arizona and hope the governor will see the benefit of vetoing this legislation, so that a better solution to the concerns with these types of water permits can be address with different legislation.  If you agree I encourage you to contact the Governor's office, at (800) 253-0883 and tell her to veto SB 1236.

No comments: