Arizona General Stream Adjudication Bulletin
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Verde River Subwatershed
In January 2020, a number of claimants filed comments and proposed schedules for adjudication of water rights in the Verde River Watershed. Those comments as well as the recommendations from the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) were considered at a status conference in February 2020. Following that status conference, ADWR was directed to file a report defining the subflow zone within the Verde River Watershed by June 1, 2021. Objections are due November 29, 2021. In addition, ADWR will work on a technical report that analyzes whether stock and wildlife watering, stockponds and domestic uses constitute de minimis uses in the watershed. The purpose of this technical report is to provide the factual information necessary to start the process of determining whether expedited procedures could be adopted to determine water rights for those types of claims.
The Verde River Watershed will be adjudicated by subwatershed with a separate hydrographic survey report (HSR) prepared by ADWR for each subwatershed. This approach differs from that used in the San Pedro River Watershed where ADWR prepared a single HSR for all five subwatersheds. The claimants highlighted a number of advantages to this approach such as the likelihood that less time will elapse between the filing of a statement of a claimant and the adjudication of that claim. The first two subwatersheds in the Verde River Watershed that will be adjudicated are the Sycamore and the Lower Verde Valley subwatersheds. The preliminary HSR for the Sycamore subwatershed is due January 5, 2024 and the preliminary HSR for the Lower Verde Valley subwatershed is due six months later on June 6, 2025. The remaining subwatersheds will be adjudicated in the following order: Little Chino, Big Chino, and Verde Canyon. The preliminary HSR for the Little Chino subwatershed is due June 2, 2028. Deadlines for completion of preliminary HSRs for the Big Chino and Verde Canyon subwatersheds will be set once the final HSRs have been filed for the Lower Verde Valley and Sycamore subwatersheds.
This subwatershed supports the Redfield Canyon Wilderness Area (RCWA) located in Cochise and Graham Counties. In February 2020, the contested case involving the federal government’s claims for water rights under state law for the RCWA was completed. More than 40 proposed abstracts for springs in and instream flow through the RCWA were added to the Catalog of Proposed Water Rights.
Contested cases to adjudicate claims for water rights filed by agencies of the federal government only account for 12% of the cases in this subwatershed. The State is named as the claimant in another 20% of the contested cases. As shown in figure 2 below, approximately 55% of the contested cases will adjudicate water rights claimed by individuals.
Figure 2. Chart show the contested cases in the Redington Subwatershed by type of claimant who is asserting claims for water rights.
To date, 51 contested cases have been initiated in the Redington subwatershed. The majority of those cases are stayed primarily as a result of the 2017 amendment to A.R.S. §45-257. Ten cases are in process. Beginning in May 2020, contested cases will be initiated to adjudicate claims for water rights for irrigation use. All of the claims for water rights in the contested cases investigated by ADWR appear to rely on wells as the source of water. Although there are 60 uninitiated contested cases that involve irrigation claims, not all of the cases can be initiated at this time. Fifteen cases include claims for water rights that designate wells located outside the subflow zone as the point of diversion. With respect to the remaining cases, the focus will be on initiating those cases where ADWR’s report lists a possible legal basis for the claimed water rights. Status conferences will be scheduled to begin in July 2020.
Lower Little Colorado Watershed
In February 2020, a status conference was held to establish a procedure to address the more than 30 objections filed to ADWR’s technical report that concluded the water used for stock and wildlife watering and stock ponds amounted to a de minimis use in the watershed. In March, ADWR filed its response to the comments and objections that specifically dealt with the ADWR Report. A status conference is set for May 28, 2020 to put a schedule in place to resolve the outstanding issues and make a determination about whether de minimis procedures similar to those adopted in the San Pedro River Watershed are appropriate to determine water rights in the Lower Little Colorado watershed for stock and wildlife watering and stockponds.
Link here to the calendar of proceedings.
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