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Water is a farm or ranch manager's most precious commodity. Establishing the rights to access both ground and surface water resources has always been tightly controlled. In fact, there is still a blue law on the books in many Arizona communities that permit the state to prosecute anyone who refuses to provide a person with a drink of water.

We will provide all of the historical research, water management asset tracking (pumps, well heads, etc.), and filing needed to help manage your water needs.

Idaho Water Rights

As the 14th largest state in the US with approximately 52.9 million acres, Idaho receives about 98 million total acre-feet of surface water annually. Of the total acre-feet received, 49 million is considered run-off surface water.

Idaho benefits from one of the worlds largest under ground aquifers supplying roughly one third of the water used for irrigation. Currently there are approximately 3 million irrigated acres in Idaho.

The State is divided into three water basins. The Snake River, the Northern Panhandle area, and the Bear River (located in southeastern Idaho). Each basin has 150,000, 25,000, and 8,000 water rights, respectively.

How Idaho Grants Water Rights
Prior to May 20, 1971 there were two methods through which a right to surface water could be established. The first was to divert water and apply it to a “beneficial use,” “historic use” or “constitutional” water rights. The date that the water was put into beneficial use established the priority date.

The second method was through the application/permit/license procedure established by the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR).

As for ground water rights, they are established in a similar manner. Prior to March 25, 1963 ground water rights were known to be separate from surface water. Before 1963 there was very low water usage from irrigation wells. Currently, ground and surface water rights are considered connected, becoming intertwined with each other. This management strategy is best known as “conjunctive management”.

The constitution and statutes of the State of Idaho protect the rights of a person to appropriate (divert, or use) the public waters (surface and ground) of the State of Idaho. When a private right to use of public waters is established by appropriation, a water right is established and accepted as a real property right.

Protection Against Water Shortages
A priority date indicates when the water right was established. This is important because it determines priority in the event of a shortage. The appropriation doctrine has also been called “first in time, first in right,” because the priority date determines who gets water when there is not enough to go around. The water right is said to have “appropriated” water.

Whenever there is a shortage of water, the water right holder with the oldest (senior) water right is satisfied first, and so on down the line until all water rights are satisfied, or the water runs out. If water is in short supply those persons with a new (junior) water right would be curtailed or limited until an ample water supply was replaced.

Throughout the state there are appointed water masters who regulate the dispersement of the water by district. These water masters are elected officials who regulate the water allocations in their district corresponding with the IDWR rules and regulations. There are also irrigation districts and canal companies that work directly with the water right holder with respect to water management.

There are an estimated 55 different irrigation districts and over 94 active water districts in the State of Idaho. Our registered users (register for free) are provided with more detailed information and maps of irrigation districts.


Arizona Water Rights

Protecting Arizona Water Supplies
For over 75 years, Arizona leaders have worked to ensure their communities have dependable long-term water supplies. From gaining congressional authorization of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) to crafting the 1980 Groundwater Management code (the "Code"), they have protected a water supply which will maintain Arizona's quality of life for years to come.

Water sources include surface water from in-state streams and rivers, Colorado River water transported over 300 miles to Central Arizona, groundwater and treated wastewater. Long term surface water supply is estimated at 4.1 million acre-feet per year, including 1.5 million acre-feet of Central Arizona Project (CAP) water. Groundwater makes up the balance of the supply, but in many areas throughout the state more groundwater is being pumped than is being naturally recharged.

In 1980, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) was created to implement the Code and secure long term water supplies for Arizona. So progressive was the effort to manage Arizona's groundwater resources that in 1986, the Code was named one of the ten most innovative programs in state and local government by the Ford Foundation and Harvard University.

The Code set restrictions on the uses of groundwater, which varies depending on where the groundwater is located. Irrigation Non Expansion Areas (INAs) and Active Management Areas (AMAs) were established in critical areas of the state.

Active Management Areas
Areas where groundwater depletion is most severe are designated as AMAs. Currently there are AMAs in Prescott, Phoenix, Pinal, Tucson and Santa Cruz. In all but the Pinal AMA, the goal is safe yield by the year 2025. In the largely agricultural Pinal AMA, the goal is to preserve that economy for as long as feasible while considering preservation of groundwater for future non-irrigation uses.

Eighty percent of the state population resides in the AMAs. Specific water conservation measures are required in these areas. For example, groundwater withdrawal must be preceded by an Irrigation Grandfathered Right (IGR) or permit. Lands located in an AMA cannot be irrigated without this right which is appurtenant to the land. There is a 10 acre exemption.

Irrigation Non-Expansion Areas
In INAs, where irrigation uses threaten to exceed limited water supplies, irrigated acreage is restricted but specific water conservation measures are not required. Arizona has three INAs in Joseph City, Harquahala and Douglas.

Irrigated land in an INA must have a Notice of Irrigation Authority (NIA) from the ADWR. NIAs in the Joseph City and Douglas Irrigation Non Expansion Areas, as well as IGRs in all AMAs were established during the five year period prior to January 1, 1980. NIAs in the Harquahala Valley Irrigation Non Expansion Area were established during the five year period prior to January 6, 1981. All rights are based on irrigation utilization during those periods.

Groundwater for Irrigation
State law also provides for an annual assessment on most of the wells pumping groundwater for irrigation. Owners of non-exempt wells within AMAs and INAs must use approved measuring devices and submit Annual Groundwater Withdrawal reports to ADWR.

There is an exemption for wells with a capacity of less than 35 GPM. Individuals withdrawing groundwater from non-exempt wells within AMAs must pay an annual groundwater withdrawal fee. Associated fees and use reports must be filed annually in March.

Under new legislation, the annual withdrawal fees will increase slightly to help finance AWBA efforts. Groundwater use outside of AMAs is not regulated and does not require a permit. It is important to note that drilling a well anywhere in the state requires that a "Notice of Intent to Drill" be filed with ADWR.

First Management Plan 1980-1990
Second Management Plan 1990-2000
Third Management Plan 2000-2010
Fourth Management Plan 2010-2020
Fifth Management Plan 2020-2025
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