As residents of a metropolis in the desert, it is natural to be concerned with water and water conservation in Arizona. But residents are not the only ones who think about Arizona water—economists, scientists, policy makers, and lawyers also have their eyes on Arizona water sources and how to best manage them for future use.

According to the ASU Now article entitled “Bridging Science and Policy for Better Water Strategies”, supplying water to the desert of Arizona requires keeping the interests of many in mind, and scientists and policy makers need to work together to ensure that ample water is available for future generations.

Understanding Arizona Water Law

AZ water law has not changed since the territorial days; even today the state uses a system called prior appropriation. In simple terms, the law is first come, first served, and whoever diverts water from a river and begins using it first gets priority. For example, if a town diverted water from a river in 1895 and a farm did the same in 1905, the town has priority when it comes to water use.

The Colorado River is a major source of water in Arizona, followed by the Gila River and Little Colorado River.  Numerous entities have a claim on this water, from large cities and smaller towns to commercial farms, local farms, utility companies, mines, Native American tribes and cattle ranches. The result of so many entities claiming rights to water in Arizona has resulted in dozens of lawsuits that go back several decades.

Changes for Sustainability

One thing that scientists and policy makers agree on is the fact that water is a very valuable commodity in Arizona, and prices need to increase to reflect that fact. The actual cost of water is Arizona is incredibly cheap; the majority of what people pay are fees for delivery and infrastructure.

One proposed idea is a water market, where an escrow is created and water could be bought and sold to towns, cities, farms, ranches and mines. The thought behind this is that water would then be sold at a fair market value, which could lead to efficiently allocating water across the state. Unfortunately, a water market can’t be developed until lawsuits are settled and it is determined who actually has ownership of the water.

A Positive Outlook

Water conservation in Arizona is something that should concern everyone residing in the state, but not because of an imminent crisis or water shortage. Water usage in the Phoenix metro area has actually decreased by 30% in the last year, despite the fact that the population has increased by 400,000 people.

Several things have contributed to the decrease in water usage, such as fewer pools being built, fewer people planting grass lawns, and an increase in the number of households using energy efficient appliances that are designed to conserve water. While drought conditions have persisted for over 15 years, Arizona is actually not in the position of other water-starved states, such as California. One of the keys to Arizona’s success is the fact that residents, especially those living in the desert areas of the state, have embraced lifestyle changes and realize the importance of water conservation.

Water Conservation Tips

As a desert-dweller, there are many things you can do to conserve water and do your part to help ensure that Arizona does not face a water emergency. One of the easiest places to save water is in your yard. Focus on landscaping with native plants that do not require a lot of water, place mulch around flowers and plants to retain moisture in the ground and run your sprinklers and drip system at night to reduce evaporation. Small changes made by the whole population of the state can result in hundreds of thousands of gallons of water saved.