Arizona Department of Water Resources’ Assured and Adequate Water Supply provisions link the subdivision approval process to water demand and water supply. These provisions are one of the most important aspects of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, ensuring consumer protection and sufficient water supplies for growth.
Inside the state’s active management areas (AMA), demonstration of an assured water supply is mandatory before a subdivision plat can be approved and before the Arizona Department of Real Estate (ADRE) issues a public report, which allows a developer to sell lots. Subdivisions are defined as land divisions of 6 or more lots. Developers prove an assured water supply by obtaining a Certificate of Assured Water Supply or a written commitment of service from a water provider that has a Designation of Assured Water Supply for its water service area. To obtain an assured water supply determination the following criteria must be met:
- The water supply must be physically, legally and continuously available for 100 years.
- The water supply must be of sufficient quality.
- Financial capability to construct any necessary water storage, treatment and delivery systems must be demonstrated.
- The proposed use must be consistent with the management goal and management plan of the AMA-essentially this means the development must be water conserving and use non-groundwater supplies.
Outside an AMA, development is subject to the Adequate Water Supply rules. Demonstration of an adequate supply is determined by compliance with criteria 1-3 of the assured water supply criteria listed above. However, developers have the option of applying for either an adequate or inadequate determination; therefore adequacy is not mandatory prior to recording a plat and initiating lot sales. If a developer opts for an inadequate determination, the water supply situation must be disclosed in land sale promotional materials and in sales documents to the first land buyer.
In 2007, the Arizona Legislature passed Senate Bill 1575, which provides authority for cities, towns, and counties to adopt an ordinance requiring new subdivisions to obtain a determination of an adequate 100-year water supply in order to obtain final plat approval. This removes the inadequacy option for developers, providing certainty for land buyers that they will have sufficient, good quality water, and ensures the community’s water supply is not over-allocated. Yuma and Cochise counties and the towns of Clarkdale and Patagonia have adopted this provision. Two legislative bills introduced in 2016 would have weakened SB 1575 but were vetoed by the Governor.
Senate Bill 1575, passed in 2007, allows cities, towns and counties to adopt mandatory water adequacy requirements. County adoption of mandatory adequacy extends the requirement to all communities within its boundaries.
Clarkdale was the second municipality to adopt mandatory adequacy regulations, which it considered important in reaching its sustainable water use goal. The ordinance, adopted in 2008, modified the Town’s subdivision regulations and subdivision platting procedures to prohibit approval of a final plat unless the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) determines there is an adequate water supply for the subdivision. The ordinance exempts certain subdivisions, such as those that were approved prior to ordinance adoption, from complying with the requirements. The revised subdivision regulations require the subdivider to either include the ADWR adequacy report with the plat or include a written commitment of water service from a water provider designated as having an adequate water supply.
Water providers designated as having an adequate water supply are on file with ADWR. In the Verde River Watershed, they include the Town of Clarkdale, City of Cottonwood, and Camp Verde Water System, the largest water provider in Camp Verde. There are areas within town/city limits that are outside the boundaries of water service areas. In addition, the City of Prescott has a designation of Assured Water Supply. Because Prescott is within an AMA, subdividers must demonstrate the development will be compliant with ADWR conservation requirements in the Prescott AMA Management Plan. This could represent an opportunity to encourage more high-conserving water demand standards for developments, beyond those required by ADWR, as a condition of plat approval.
Model Subdivision Ordinance
Town of Clarkdale Water Resource Management Program
Phone: (928) 639- 2400
- The Arizona Department of Water Resources Assured and Adequate Water Supply Program information can be found here.
- Cochise County Subdivision Regulations can be found here.
- Cochise County Adequate Water Supply Resolution 08-20