Established by Laws 1980, Chapter 1, 4th Special Session, effective June 12, 1980. Statutory authority is found in A.R.S. Title 45; §45-101 et seq.FunctionThe Department administers all state water laws, except those related to water quality, which come under the jurisdiction of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.Created in 1980, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) assumed the responsibilities of the Arizona Water Commission and the State Water Engineer relating to surface water, groundwater and dams and reservoirs.
Statute provides the Director of ADWR with general control and supervision of surface water (including appropriation and distribution) and groundwater (with exceptions spelled out in statute, court judgments or decrees). The Director is also authorized to act on behalf of the state on issues related to the Colorado River. (See A.R.S.§§45-103 and 45-107.)The Department also explores methods to augment water supplies and promote conservation.Arizona’s water supplies include surface water, including Colorado River water as well as in-state rivers; groundwater and reclaimed water.
The Arizona Territorial Legislature adopted the 1864 Howell Code, which established the doctrine of prior appropriation for surface water, used to allocate the right to use surface water for a beneficial use. (“First in time, first in right”)Laws 1919, Chapter 164 created the State Water Code and created the office of the State Water Commissioner, who was appointed by the Governor to a six-year term.In 1922, the seven basin states negotiated a compact dividing the Colorado Basin into an upper basin and a lower basin and allocated 7.5 million acre feet to each basin. Arizona was allocated 2.8 million acre feet of water but refused to ratify the compact until 1944.Laws 1943, Chapter 28 transferred the responsibilities of the State Water Commissioner to the State Land Commissioner and Laws 1945, Chapter 14, 1st Special Session transferred the authority to administer Arizona’s rights to Colorado River water to the State Land Commissioner.
In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s the Legislature struggled to resolve issues related to groundwater use. In 1948 the Critical Groundwater Code was adopted, which prohibited drilling new irrigation wells in ten areas of the state designated as ‘critical groundwater areas.” The 1948 Code did not regulate pumping from existing wells however, allowing groundwater use to continue at historic levels. In response to criticism of the 1948 Code, a second groundwater study commission was formed in 1951. None of the recommendations were enacted and the commission was abolished.In 1977, a 25-member Groundwater Management Study Commission was appointed to develop a comprehensive long-range plan for groundwater management by December 31, 1979 (Laws 1977, Chapter 29).
In June, 1980 Governor Babbitt issued a call for a special session to adopt a code to regulate and control the use of groundwater.Laws 1980, Chapter 1, 4th Special Session transferred responsibility to administer Arizona water laws from the State Land Department to a new agency, the Department of Water Resources. The 1980 Groundwater Management Act created four Active Management Areas with specific management goals and requirements to address groundwater overdraft. Among other provisions, the act imposed restrictions on drilling new large wells within an AMA and required new subdivisions to demonstrate that a 100-year assured water supply is available to support the development. The act also addressed water conservation and transportation of groundwater.Sources
- A.R.S.§§45-101 et seq.
- Session Laws
- Laws 1919, Chapter 164
- Laws 1943, Chapter 28
- Laws 1945, Chapter 14, 1st Special Session
- Laws 1977, Chapter 29
- Laws 1980, Chapter 1, 4th Special Session
- ADWR website: www.azwater.gov (History of Water Management in Arizona)