Arizona Groundwater Explained

News of drought and climate change impacts on Arizona’s water supplies has become more alarming with the release of each new study. To prepare for a drier future, Arizona will need an informed public. For help in understanding the state’s water management situation, a brief new reference work is now available from the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center.

Arizona has faced serious water challenges before and found innovative solutions. The 40-year anniversary of the landmark 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management Act, with its regulatory framework and conservation mandates, was celebrated in 2020. In June, the conference: “Water at the Crossroads: The Next 40 Years” drew lessons from the past 40 years of water management and explored solutions to current water resource challenges. Speakers included US Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman and Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, as well as Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis and Colorado River Indian Tribes Tribal Council Chairman Dennis Patch.

The virtual event inspired the publication of a concise summary of conference insights supplemented with research into the latest data and information on the state’s groundwater management. The 2021 Arroyo, “Arizona Groundwater Management – Past, Present and Future,” provides background and examines some of Arizona’s remaining and emerging water issues affecting groundwater management. Babbitt commented, “From now on, when people ask me about Arizona water, I will be sending them this work.”

Issues addressed include meeting the needs of rural communities, supporting growth sustainably, and responding to likely Colorado River shortages without returning to groundwater overdraft. The Arroyo also examines the role of Arizona’s Native Nations and the challenges to Arizona’s natural environment. It goes on to explore some innovative solutions, such as desalination, water reuse, collaborative infrastructure projects, and innovative regulatory strategies, that policymakers, managers, and stakeholders are developing to address these issues.

A PDF of the 2021 Arroyo may be downloaded free from Arroyo-2021.pdf (

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