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Regulatory Framework

Flagstaff’s recent status change provides assurance about the availability of our water supplies for 100 years.

In Arizona, the legislation that governs the management of groundwater is the 1980 Groundwater Management Act (GMA), which defines Active Management Areas (AMAs) and specifies requirements for water providers within these areas. However, since Flagstaff lies outside of the state’s five AMAs, we are governed by the permissive Adequate Water Supply (AWS) Program, which is administered by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR).

In 1973 (prior to the GMA), the City received an AWS Designation — with no requirement to prove hydrologically that our supply will last 100 years. While this program attempts to link growth with water supply, it has no regulatory teeth and provides no assurances about the true availability of water.

In 2007, the State Legislature adopted House Bill 2672, and Senate Bill 1575, as a “carrot and stick” to give Counties and Cities outside of AMAs tools to better manage water supplies. The “carrot,” HB 2672, created the Water Resources Development Fund (with no funding mechanism). The “stick,” SB 1575, made the provisions within the ADWR’s AWS Program mandatory. Local jurisdictions now have the ability to prove that their supplies will be continuously, legally, and physically available for 100 years and that they are of drinking water quality. Providers must also prove their financial ability to construct, operate, and maintain a water system. The benefit of this designation is that provides long-term assurance to investors, businesses, and homebuyers that our water supplies will last into the future.

The City has updated its AWS Designation twice.

In 2011, the City received approval from ADWR to modify Flagstaff’s 1973 AWS Designation to include groundwater at Red Gap Ranch based on a hydrologic study that determined we could pump 16,500 acre-feet/year from this area without significant water level declines.

In February 2013, ADWR modified our AWS Designation based on the results of a groundwater sustainability / modeling study. This designation requires that the City submit an annual update of water use and future water demands and a modeling update every 10 years

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