Legislation to immunize well owners becomes law

Water well (Deposit photo)

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services | Arizona Capitol Times

A new law signed Thursday by Gov. Doug Ducey is designed to provide legal protections to those who drill wells into underground streams they are not legally entitled to tap.

The measure repeals existing laws that make it a crime when a well owner “uses water to which another is entitled.” That law, until now, has subjected violators to up to four months in jail and a $750 fine.

Now, that criminal penalty will be available only when someone knew they were breaking the law.

But that exception bothered several lawmakers.

Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, said he has no problem immunizing those who already have put wells into the ground, only to find out that they have dipped into a subsurface flow that doesn’t belong to them.

Campbell, however, said he wanted a provision included in the legislation to tell those who have yet to drill a well that they would be subject to criminal penalties if they ended up tapping into someone else’s water. It was not included.

Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, said she fears the new law will create a loophole for the unscrupulous.

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