What you don’t know about the water law that saved Arizona

Photo: Michael Chow/The Republic
Video in source article: Jim Graham operates a pistachio and wine-grape farm in Cochise County. He and other farmers have seen their groundwater levels drop.

In 2016, when the rains dried and reservoirs shrank, California was forced to impose drastic water conservation measures to keep taps flowing. Arizona avoided this fate, despite being a far drier place, largely because we had something California didn’t: the Groundwater Management Act of 1980.

The state legislation, the first of its kind in the nation, outlawed irrigation on any new acres of farmland and required subdivisions in more populated areas to show a 100-year water supply before building, among other requirements. Arizona was rapidly depleting its irreplaceable underground aquifers, and everyone was fighting over who had rights to the water.

The conflict came to a head in 1976 when a state Supreme Court decision on groundwater pumping threatened to decimate Tucson’s then-sizable mining industry. A new documentary, “Groundwater: To Enact a Law for the Common Good,” chronicles how lawmakers overcame improbable […]

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