I've neglected to follow through on my promise to provide an update to the Arizona Dept. of Water Resources (ADWR) Non-Indian Agricultural (NIA) water re-allocation process, that I have previously discussed here and here. Sure I waited until almost the last minute but I am keeping my promise. ADWR did release their final process (pdf) for carrying out the water allocation last month, as they promised and they are having a meeting next week (3/12) to go over the rules with potential applicants. I won't be at the meeting because I don't represent any potential applicants - Indian tribes are specifically excluded from receiving an allocation of this water - but I hope to keep track of how this program progresses. The final process is not dramatically different from what they originally proposed. Without having parsed the final document closely the only real difference I can come up with is that they shifted some of the water to the second phase of allocation. Apparently there was some concern that the full amount they proposed to give away next year might not actually be contracted for under the set of qualifications they proposed. Maybe there will be some movement toward market allocation of water by the time the second phase starts up in 2021. Maybe.
The other item at ADWR I have been following is their proposal to modify certain aspects of the recharge program, which I previously discussed here. This proposal was floated by the department as a possible idea to include in the upcoming 4th Management Plans (4MP) for the Active Management Areas (AMAs). There has been pretty widespread acknowledgment for more than a decade that certain aspects of the regulatory regime that governs use of groundwater in the AMAs probably still permits too much groundwater pumping in certain areas to protect the overall health of the state's aquifers. ADWR thought they might try to address this by making some changes to the recharge program that would encourage water users to do their recharging and recovery of that recharged water in closer proximity. My point has been that the problem is not the proximity (or lack thereof) of recharging and recovery activities. The problem is that the rules simply allow too much pumping, sometimes in places where we might like to see a lot less pumping. I think something along these lines will show up in the 4MP, but it will just be a recommendation to study the issue further. This will result in a stakeholder process to look at possible solutions. I actually thought the current Safe Yield Task Force was supposed to be looking at this issue but maybe too many people involved are aware that the real solution is not a path they want to go down. We'll see.