Hot Topics Featured in Arizona Water Law Conference

Aug. 18, 2023
water law conference photo of river

At the August 3–4 conference on Arizona Water Law, presentations featured the latest information on a range of vital issues, including the Colorado River, Tribal water rights, the General Stream Adjudications, and groundwater management, among others. In Arizona, as elsewhere, the law aims to provide stability, but many factors, including statutory changes and evolving legal interpretations, make room for large uncertainties. After 40-plus years, there are signs that the stream adjudication process is accelerating, although it is a long way from achieving its goal of certainty.

Conference co-chair Mark McGinnis of Salmon, Lewis & Weldon and Susan Ward Harris, the recently retired Special Water Master for the adjudications, differed on predictions about whether the process would ever end. Uncertainty about the future of the Colorado River continues to trouble water managers and cause interested parties to clamor for a role in upcoming decisions. Certainty is also a primary reason for the federal administration to advance Tribal water settlements that include funding for water infrastructure, as described by Gary Gold, Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science. In the context of the recent Arizona v. Navajo Nation decision, Ethel Branch, the Navajo Nation’s Attorney General, emphasized the urgent need for action to achieve water equity for Tribal people. Updates on groundwater management from Rob Anderson of Fennemore and Susan Montgomery of Montgomery & Interpreter addressed the currently hot topics of ADWR’s groundwater model and rural groundwater use regulation. These topics feature in the two subcommittees of the newly formed Governor’s Water Policy Council. As members of the Council, WRRC Director Sharon B. Megdal and Sarah Porter, Director of the ASU Kyl Center for Water Policy, shared a panel that sparked discussion of the place of secrecy in water policy deliberations. The conference agenda can be found here.

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