The bill would authorize large-scale rainwater harvesting pilot projects and increase requirements for instream flow water right applications
According to an article from the Daily Courier, the bill, which has already been approved by the House and Senate, is sitting on the governor's desk.
Senate Bill 1236 is a companion piece to House Bill 2363 that Gov. Jan Brewer signed March 27. The main sponsor of SB1236 is Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, whose district faces water shortages like the Prescott region. Co-sponsors include Senate President Steve Pierce, R-Prescott.
On top of changing the state's instream flow application process, SB1236 would also authorize the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) to conduct large-scale water harvesting pilot projects in Yavapai and Cochise counties. Money is not included in the deal.
Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition technical experts have already designed one project for Chino Valley's Old Home Manor property. It would test various methods of capturing precipitation that might otherwise evaporate or go to plants, as well as working to figure out the best way to get the water into the aquifer.
SB1236 requires five years of on-site stream flow data before anyone can file a new application for instream flow rights to protect wildlife and/or recreation uses. Current law requires one year of measurements after the application but before granting a permit.
Most of the applications come from the federal government when it's seeking to protect the flow of streams going through public lands. The Prescott National Forest and The Nature Conservancy have applied for instream flow rights through their lands on the Upper and Middle Verde River. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management also submitted an application for the Agua Fria through the Agua Fria National Monument.
So far, ADWR has granted only one instream flow water right—in 1983.
ADWR Director Sandy Fabritz-Whitney told the Daily Courier that one of her goals has been to speed up the instream flow application review process since she became assistant director about five years ago.
Currently, 138 applications are on file, she said. Policy issues and staff limitations are the reason for delays in recent years, she told the Daily Courier.