Committee adopts bill to permit municipal opt-out from county authority on water supply

Barry Aaronscrepresented the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association at the hearing.
Barry Aaronscrepresented the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association at the hearing.

By Phil Riske | Senior Reporter/Writer

(STATE CAPITOL)— A Senate committee Monday adopted a bill which would remove the requirement cities and towns comply with county ordinances requiring a proposed subdivision located outside of an Active Water Management area (AMA} to demonstrate an adequate water supply (100-years) before the final plat can be approved.

The bill (SB 1268) was amended to permit cities and towns to “opt-out” of the county regulations and was forwarded by the Senate Water and Energy Committee on a 5-2 vote. Cochise and Yuma counties have already passed regulations permitting cities and towns local control over developments as they relate to water.

Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller testified municipalities with adequate water supplies (AWS) should control their own developments.

“Counties have usurped the authority you have given us,” Mueller told the lawmakers.

The Legislature in 1973 enacted laws requiring all new subdivisions submit plans on water adequacy to meet the needs of a subdivision. The 1980 Groundwater Code designated five AMAs in areas where groundwater overdraft was most severe.

The AWS rules do not apply outside an AMA. Subdivision developers, however, must obtain a decision as to whether a plat can be approved by a city, town or county and before the Arizona Department of Real Estate will authorize the sale of lots.

The bill is supported by the Southern Arizona and Central Arizona builders associations.

Barry Aarons, representing the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, told the committee the association was opposed to the original bill, but the opt-out amendment might make it more acceptable.

Lobbyist opposition came from Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club, who urged lamakers to look at the big picture regarding water, rather than making exemptions to current law.

“These kinds of bills make a joke out of what the governor is doing with the Water Council,” Bahr said.

Gov. Doug Ducey in December appointed 29 people to the Water Augmentation Council, which is charged to find ways to ensure certainty for the Arizona water supply.

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February 2016