Vol. 31, No. 2
May-September 2023

Welcome to the Arizona General Stream Adjudication Bulletin

The Office of the Special Master publishes the Bulletin three times a year to provide information about proceedings in the Gila River Adjudication and the Little Colorado River Adjudication.



Office of the Special Master
Maricopa Superior Court
Central Court Building 3A
201 West Jefferson
Phoenix, AZ 85003-2205
Tel. 602-372-4115

The Bulletin relies on links so the entire document is available to our readers. Always check our Active Cases page for up-to-date notices and documents.

Severance and Transfer Jurisdiction

In contested case In re Paul L. Sale, W1-11-3107, the Special Master filed a Final Report concluding that the Adjudication Court has jurisdiction over severances and transfers of water rights that have been added to the Proposed Catalog of Water Rights. All objections to the report were filed by September 25th, 2023.

Watershed Boundaries and Sequence of Future HSRs
CV 6417 and W-1, W-2, W-3, W-4

On May 24th, 2023, ADWR filed a technical report containing a revised watershed map and proposed schedule for the completion of subflow zones for three watersheds. The new watershed map is based on the United States Geological Survey’s Hydrologic Unit Code (“HUC”) system. The HUC system approximates the drainage area that contributes water to a given point in a stream. Images of the historical and revised watershed maps may be accessed here.

In its May report, ADWR also proposed the following schedule for the completion of Subflow Zone Technical Reports:
  1. Upper Little Colorado River Watershed: February 2029.
  2. Salt River Watershed: September 2032.
  3. Upper Gila River and Middle Gila River Watershed: June 2034.

In September, claimants briefed the Court regarding the propriety of ADWR’s revision of the long-standing historical watershed map, the splitting of water users’ claims across watersheds, and the splitting of points of diversion and places of use between watersheds.

Little Colorado River Watershed

Silver Creek Watershed

As of October 2023, eight cases in the Silver Creek Watershed have been initiated for the first time or re-initiated after a lengthy stay. Three of these cases have been dismissed, two have been stayed, and four are ongoing.

As of May 2023, 8 cases in the Silver Creek Watershed have been initiated or re-initiated after a lengthy stay. One of these cases has been stayed and two have been dismissed, while the other five remain ongoing.

In re Navajo Nation, CV 6417-300

Phase I of the trial to quantify reserved water rights for the Navajo Nation began on April 24th, 2023 and continued until August 2nd, 2023. During the 40-day trial, over 90 witnesses testified as to historical, present, and future water need for stockponds, stock and wildlife watering, and domestic, commercial, municipal, and industrial water uses.

Parties’ post-trial briefs, along with proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, are due November 16th, 2023, response briefs are due February 16th, 2024, and reply briefs are due March 15th, 2024. In-person oral argument is scheduled for April 16th–17th, 2024.

Gila River Adjudication

San Pedro River Watershed

St. David Irrigation District

In Phase II of the St. David Irrigation District case, resolution of individual contested cases within the district will begin. In 2022, the Court deconsolidated and initiated eight contested cases from In re St. David Irrigation District, W1-11-1675. The Court will consider the following six cases first: W1-11-2081, W1-11-2089, W1-11-2090, W1-11-2111, W1-11-2119, and W1-11-2128. The water uses at issue in those contested cases are in close proximity and share points of diversion. In July 2023, the Court set a litigation schedule with a trial beginning on January 27th, 2025.

In re San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, W1-11-232

On August 25th, 2023, the Adjudication Court filed an order quantifying federal reserved rights for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The order protects the instream flow of the San Pedro River and groundwater elevations in the riparian area surrounding the river. The Court has requested from the United States a form of decree consistent with the contents of the order due by December 1st, 2023. Objections to the form of decree will be due by January 22nd, 2024.

Verde River Watershed

Subflow Zone Delineation

ADWR filed a Subflow Technical Report for the Sycamore and Mainstem subwatersheds on December 31st, 2021. In 2021, the Special Master set a trial date of August 17, 2023 to resolve objections to the report. On June 15th, 2023, SRP, Freeport Minerals, and Arizona State Land Department filed a motion for summary judgment regarding their objection that ADWR did not use predevelopment conditions to delineate the subflow zone in Horseshoe and Bartlett reservoirs. After receiving the report, the Special Master deferred a trial to resolve objections to the report until July 17th, 2024. On September 6th, 2023, the Special Master heard oral argument regarding the motion for summary judgment.

Federal Reserved Rights

In January 2023, the United States filed Statements of Claimant (“SOCs”) claiming reserved rights for five wilderness areas in the Sycamore and Mainstem subwatersheds. In May 2023, Freeport Minerals moved for summary judgment to dismiss the United States’ claims for all unappropriated flow in the wilderness areas as a matter of law. On September 27th, 2023, the Special Master granted Freeport’s Motion for Summary Judgment, affirming that the United States must show the quantities of water necessary to fulfill the purposes of the reservations.


Link here to the calendar of Active Cases.

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