Arizona Water Links

Who’s Who of Arizona Water Issues

Many public agencies, private non-profit associations and business-related groups play important roles in the development of water resource policy in Arizona. Knowing the “players” in the public arena and among the non-Indian interest groups is essential for tribal advocates.

The following is a partial listing of agencies and organizations that are involved in the development of water resource policy in the state.

Federal Agencies

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region serves as the “water master” for the last 688 miles of the Colorado River within the United States on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. The Region manages the River and its reservoirs to meet water and power delivery obligations, protect endangered species and native habitat, enhance outdoor recreation opportunities, and provide flood control. It maintains Hoover, Davis and Parker Dams, annually measures and accounts for the water’s use, and maintains the river channel and protective levees. The Region also works with tribes through the Regional Office in Boulder City, NV and its Area Offices, including ones in Phoenix and Yuma.

EPA’s Region 9 covers the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, and Hawaii and works with 147 federally recognized tribes in the Southwest.

It is responsible for the enforcement of federal environmental laws. In addition, it provides technical assistance to the tribes. For more information on the Region’s tribal programs see the special Web site:

The USGS is a major federal research agency, focused on water, as well as a number of other issues. It is responsible for many important studies on Arizona’s water resources. The agency’s Arizona Water Science Center Web site hosts a variety of data banks with current and historical information on surface water, groundwater and water quality.

Arizona State Legislature

The Committee has jurisdiction over Arizona environmental legislation. It is chaired by Representative Ray Barnes of Phoenix.

The Committee has jurisdiction over Arizona water issues. It is chaired by Representative Lucy Mason of Prescott.

The Committee has jurisdiction over Arizona water issues. It is chaired by Senator John Nelson of Glendale.

Arizona State Agencies

The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) was created to secure long-term dependable water supplies for Arizona’s communities. It administers and enforces Arizona’s groundwater code, and surface water rights laws (except those related to water quality); negotiates with external political entities to protect Arizona’s Colorado River water supply; oversees the use of surface and groundwater resources under state jurisdiction; and represents Arizona in discussions of water rights with the federal government. In addition, it provides technical support for the adjudication of surface water rights in the state.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality was established by the Arizona Legislature in 1986 in response to growing concerns about groundwater quality. ADEQ administers a variety of environmental programs, including the water quality program.

WIFA is an independent agency of the state of Arizona, authorized to finance the construction, rehabilitation and/or improvement of drinking water, wastewater, wastewater reclamation, and other water quality facilities/projects. Generally, WIFA offers borrowers below market interest on loans for one hundred percent of eligible project costs. By law, the WIFA Board includes a tribal representative.

WIFA’s principal tools for providing low interest financial assistance include the Clean Water Revolving Fund for publicly held wastewater treatment projects and the Drinking Water Revolving Fund for both publicly and privately held drinking water systems. Both funds are capitalized by contributions from the state and federal governments.

The Arizona Corporation Commission was established by the state’s constitution. The Commission regulates private water utilities, along with other public utilities. It also facilitates the incorporation of businesses and organizations and regulates securities and railroad/pipeline safety.

The Arizona Water Banking Authority (AWBA) was established in 1996 to increase utilization of the state’s Colorado River entitlement and develop long-term storage credits for the state. AWBA stores or “banks” unused Colorado river water to be used in times of shortage to firm (or secure) water supplies for Arizona.

On August 28, 2009, Governor Jan Brewer announced the formation of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Water Sustainability. The group is to explore and provide recommendations on strategies to advance water recycling and conservation efforts. It is chaired by the heads of ADWR, ADEQ and the Arizona Corporation Commission. Much of the Panel’s work is to be performed by a set of Work Groups. Members of the public have been invited to participate in the Work Groups.

Major Regional Water Providers: Southcentral Arizona

Central Arizona Project is designed to bring about 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water per year to Maricopa, Pima and Pinal Counties. CAP carries water from Lake Havasu near Parker to the southern boundary of the San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Reservation southwest of Tucson. It is a 336-mile long system of aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines and is the largest single resource of renewable water supplies in the state of Arizona. CAP is governed by the Central Arizona Water Conservation District. The 15 members of the CAWCD Board are publicly elected, with 10 elected from Maricopa County, 4 from Pima County and 1 from Pinal County.

The CAGRD was created to provide a mechanism to assist landowners and water providers to demonstrate that they have a 100-year water supply under the Assured Water Supply rules that apply to Active Management Areas (AMAs). It is designed to serve areas that are too far from the CAP canal or are otherwise unable to take direct delivery of water from the CAP system. It is run under a Plan of Operation which is subject to the approval of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Although sometimes considered as a separate entity, CAGRD is a part of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District.

CAP created Project Acquisition, Development and Delivery (ADD) of Water in 2007 in an effort to establish a collaborative process to determine how to distribute and fund water supplies which are supplemental to the water available through the original CAP project. The design of ADD Water was developed through an extensive stakeholder process. The CAWCD Board voted in March of 2010 to proceed with advanced planning for the ADD Water program.

SRP is two entities: the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, a political subdivision of the state of Arizona; and the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association, a private corporation. The Association delivers nearly 1 million acre-feet of water annually to a service area in central Arizona. An extensive water delivery system is maintained and operated by the Association, including reservoirs, wells, canals and irrigation laterals. The District provides electricity to nearly 934,000 retail customers in the Phoenix area. It operates or participates in 11 major power plants and numerous other generating stations, including thermal, nuclear, natural gas and hydroelectric ones.

Public Water Provider Associations

The Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) is a voluntary, non-profit corporation established by municipalities in Maricopa County for the development of urban water resource policy. The organization is a forum through which the ten member cities and towns work to attain the highest degree of intergovernmental cooperation possible in order to advance the rational and effective use of water resources within the state, and position cities and towns in the forefront of water resource policy development and planning. The member cities and towns are: Phoenix, Mesa, Peoria, Scottsdale, Tempe, Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale and Goodyear.

The Northern Arizona Municipal Water User’s Association (NAMWUA) represents a group of nine northern Arizona municipalities that cooperate as a collective voice on water policy. Its goal is to work together to develop a sustainable regional water supply.

Tucson Water is a department of the City of Tucson, Arizona, serving approximately 775,000 people in a 350-square-mile service area. Tucson Water is also a participant in the Southern Arizona Water Users Association, an organization that represents a number of agricultural as well as public water agencies in southern Arizona. SAWUA’s Web site is:

The Partnership is a consortium of 21 agencies and organizations working together to meet the long-term water needs of the Sierra Vista subwatershed by achieving sustainable yield of the regional aquifer by 2011 and beyond to preserve the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and ensure the long-term viability of Fort Huachuca. The Partnership has been instrumental in helping to establish the Upper San Pedro Water District, now in formation.

A number of agricultural, industrial and commercial interests also have a stake in water policy and are frequently represented on various stakeholder working groups. These include irrigation districts, other agricultural interests, energy companies including APS and SRP, mining companies including Freeport McMoRan and Resolution Copper, and the residential housing development community.

Several environmental organizations also have an interest in water policy. These include the Nature Conservancy and the Sonoran Institute.

University-Based Organizations

WRRC is a research and extension unit of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences of the University of Arizona. The WRRC conducts water policy research and analysis, and its information transfer activities include publications, conferences, lectures, and seminars. It hosts a major annual conference on Arizona water issues.

DCDC a part of Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability. DCDC’s research, outreach, and educational activities focus on water management decisions in central Arizona in the context of the area’s rapid population growth and urbanization, complex political and economic systems, variable desert climate, and the specter of global climate change.

NAU’s Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) acts as a catalyst among tribal governments, university resources, government agencies, and the private sector in support of environmental protection of Native American natural resources.

These regionally-based groups generally exist to explore ways to conserve and enhance the water resources in their areas. Many of those in rural areas have received technical support from ADWR and a number also feature in ADEQ activities. Tribes participate in a number of them, and one, covering the Navajo Nation, is focused specifically on reservation land.

Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council

East Valley Water Forum

Gila Watershed Partnership

Mogollon Highlands Partnership

Navajo Nation

Yavapai Water Advisory Committee


CRWUA is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, formed to plan, study, formulate and advise on ways to protect and safeguard the interests of all who use the Colorado River. It sponsors an annual conference which is a major networking opportunity for organizations and individuals with a stake in the River. Its governance structure includes state interest groups, along with the Ten Tribes group which includes mainstem tribes along the lower Colorado and several with land along its northern tributaries.

The WateReuse Association is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the beneficial and efficient use of water resources through education, sound science, and technology using reclamation, recycling, reuse and desalination. The vision of WateReuse is to be the leading voice for reclamation, recycling, reuse, and desalination in the development and utilization of new sources of high quality water.

The Western States Water Council is an organization consisting of representatives appointed by the governors of 18 western states. The purposes of the Council are: (1) to accomplish effective cooperation among western states in the conservation, development and management of water resources; (2) to maintain vital state prerogatives, while identifying ways to accommodate legitimate federal interests; (3) to provide a forum for the exchange of views, perspectives, and experiences among member states; and (4) to provide analysis of federal and state developments in order to assist member states in evaluating the impacts of federal laws and programs and the effectiveness of state laws and policies.