Vol. 31, No. 3
October 2023-January 2024

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.

University of Arizona Adjudication Clinic

The Arizona Adjudications Project is up and running and providing free, limited legal representation. The team can help claimants who are small landowners and not already represented by counsel. You can apply for assistance here. The Project can also be reached at law-azadjudicationsproject@arizona.edu or (520) 621 6722.

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

On May 24, 2023, Arizona Department of Water Resources (“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:

  • Upper Little Colorado River Watershed: February 2029.
  • Salt River Watershed: September 2032.
  • 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.

On January 23rd, 2023, the Court held oral argument regarding whether the area encompassed by a Hydrographic Survey Report (“HSR”) must follow scientific watershed boundaries, whether for legal or practical reasons. Based on that proceeding, the Special Master will prepare a Rule 53 Report regarding HSR area boundaries.

Severance and Transfer Jurisdiction
In re Paul L. Sale, W1-11-3107

On March 24, 2023, 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. All responses to objections were filed by December 18, 2023, and any replies were filed by January 18, 2024.

Black Farm Appeal

In September 2005, Salt River Project initiated a severance and transfer proceeding for certificated water rights on the Black Farm Preserve. In February 2020, the Adjudication Court approved a water right abstract appurtenant the Black Farm Preserve in contested case W1-11-3194. In March 2023, ADWR denied Salt River Project’s proposed severance and transfer, shortly after which Salt River Project appealed the decision to the Superior Court and sought transfer of the case to the Water Judge. In November 2023, the appeal was transferred to Judge Blaney pursuant to Rule 3.1(c) of the Local Rules of the Maricopa County Superior Court.

This case will involve a variation of the jurisdictional issue in contested case W1-11-3107–whether the Adjudication Court has exclusive jurisdiction over the severance and transfer of a right where an abstract for the right has been approved, but where the right holder also initiated a severance and transfer proceeding with ADWR.

Note that the appeal of ADWR’s administrative decision is neither consolidated with the General Stream Adjudication or any contested case therein.

Gila River Adjudication
San Pedro River Watershed

In re Subflow Technical Report, W1-103

On July 18, 2022, the Court ordered that, by December 2023, ADWR must file a technical report for a groundwater model that will serve as the basis for Cone of Depression and Subflow Depletion tests in the San Pedro River Watershed.

On November 20, 2023, the Court granted a 60-day extension for the filing of the technical report. The Court ordered that the technical report must be filed by February 20, 2024 and that the deadline for filing objections to the report is April 22, 2024.

Verde River Watershed

In re Subflow Technical Report, W1-106

On December 30, 2021, ADWR filed a technical report proposing a subflow zone delineation for two subwatersheds of the Verde River watershed, the Sycamore Canyon and Verde River Mainstem subwatersheds. On June 15, 2023, multiple parties moved for summary judgment ordering that ADWR amend its subflow zone delineation around Horseshoe and Bartlett reservoirs. On October 24, 2023, the Court granted the motion, ordering that ADWR map the extent of the saturated floodplain holocene alluvium (“SFHA”) at the reservoirs under predevelopment conditions.

On April 28, 2023, ADWR filed a technical report proposing a subflow zone delineation for the remainder of the Verde River Watershed. Objections to the technical report focused on ADWR’s determination of ephemeral stream reaches, a purported incomplete mapping of the subflow zone for multiple creeks and washes, and a failure to delineate the subflow zone for various reservoirs using SFHA under predevelopment conditions. In an order filed January 22, 2024, the Court ordered ADWR to amend its mapping around the reservoirs and set a date for a hearing to resolve the remaining issues. The four-day hearing will begin on August 19, 2024.

Little Colorado River Adjudication

Silver Creek Watershed

As of October 2023, 15 contested cases in the Silver Creek Watershed have been initiated for the first time or re-initiated after a lengthy stay. Abstracts have been approved in two of these contested cases, three of the cases have been dismissed, and ten 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 2, 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 filed post-trial briefs, along with proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, on November 16th, 2023. Response briefs are due February 16, 2024, and reply briefs are due March 15th, 2024. In-person oral argument is scheduled for April 16–17, 2024.


Link here to the calendar of Active Cases.

Site Requirements
This site requires a PDF reader (such as Adobe Reader or another PDF reader) to view and print the prepared documents.
return to top