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Planning policies that influence development or redevelopment can play an important role in water resource management. The most important of these are in general and comprehensive plans, which contain large-scale and long-term community goals and aspirations for future development.

In Arizona, the elements of these plans are specified by state statute (A.R.S. §9-461.05 for cities and towns and A.R.S. §11-804 for counties). Plans are in effect for up to ten years, at which point they must be readopted or a new plan adopted to replace it. Plan adoption and amendments must be approved by voters (A.R.S. §9-461.06 and A.R.S. §11-805).

These plans drive public policy and inform regulations for transportation, utilities, land use, water resources, recreation and housing, and provide an opportunity to improve land use and water resource integration. Growing Smarter legislation in 1998 and 2000 attempted to “strengthen the ability of communities to address growth by considering water demand together with land use, growth areas and infrastructure.”

However, guidelines for the Water Resource Element (WRE) are general and do not specify precisely how that linkage is to be made. As a result, few WRE’s identify specific land use or water use goals, or conservation strategies for new development.

To move plan policies to action, communities can develop a separate implementation matrix, with final and interim policy implementation dates and departmental responsibilities, to take the policies through short-term, mid-term and long-term actions to achieve their goals. This allows for consideration of ambitious actions and does not require amending the plan. Even so, it is important to regularly engage the public in a collaborative planning process to ensure community support and avoid unanticipated problems at public hearings.

Improving linkages between the land and water resource elements in the planning process can be achieved through the following:

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