Winding canal of the Central Arizona Project (Wikimedia Commons)

Winding canal of the Central Arizona Project (Wikimedia Commons)

If you live in the American West and are a person who uses water, or if your body is approximately 70 percent water, you may need to be interested in the state of water resources.

Fortunately, a program this Thursday provides a clear-eyed view of the issues.

This Thursday, February 9, a panel discussion will examine the “Arizona Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan: Arizona Water Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty.” All the detail is here.

It begins at 1:00 p.m., and will also be available via live simulcast.

Here is more background about the program from its organizers:

The State Bar of Arizona CLE Department, Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section, and Environmental & Natural Resources Sections are sponsoring a water program on February 9, 2017.

Of the 7 million acre-feet of water Arizona uses annually, 40 percent is Colorado River water. Arizona water managers predict Colorado River water shortages for Arizona may be as early as 2018 with the water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell now at historic low levels.

Bill Ralls, former federal water regulator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Chair of this water program, says, “With documented significant imbalances between future demands and water supply in Arizona, the time for action is now to find state and regional solutions to realize growth potential. The solution will likely be regional. The first chapter in this historic effort is now focused in the current negotiations to develop a regional drought contingency plan in the lower basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona.”

A distinguished panel of regulatory and water experts will analyze the current status of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency; Plan and Contingency Plan Plus of the Central Arizona Project.

The Colorado River cuts a pathway of 1,450 miles from the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming to Mexico, providing a water supply to nearly 40 million people in seven states. The Central Arizona Project currently transports Colorado River water several hundred miles to Maricopa, Pinal and Pima Counties, since 1986 to Phoenix, and 1994 to Tucson.

Map of the Central Arizona Project

Map of the Central Arizona Project

In addition, the panel of legal and hydrogeology experts will analyze the Arizona water regulatory framework:

  • The Arizona Corporation Commission regulation of water utilities
  • The Arizona Department of Water Resources regulation of groundwater
  • Pending Arizona wastewater reuse rule-making of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  • Recent important water court decisions

Chair and Moderator:

  • William R. Ralls


  • Jay M. Johnson, General Counsel, Central Arizona Project
  • Kenneth C. Slowinski, Chief Counsel, Arizona Department of Water Resources
  • Timothy J. Sabo, Snell & Wilmer LLP
  • Charles S. Graf, R.G. Principal Hydrogeologist, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass will be the site for the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass will be the site for the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

Today, I mention just one legal seminar that will be offered on Thursday, June 16, at the upcoming State Bar Convention. (All the detail is here. And the complete Convention brochure is here.)

Here is what I asked seminar chairs, followed by their responses.

Click on the seminar title to read more detail as published in the Convention brochure.

Thursday, June 16, 2:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

T-31: Regulating Arizona’s Desert Water Supply: An In-Depth Discussion of Public Regulation of Water Rights

Chair: Bill Ralls

T-28 Bill Ralls

Bill Ralls

Who should attend this seminar?

All business, real property, environmental, administrative and regulatory attorneys and members of the State Bar of Arizona whose clients depend upon the availability of water to sustain future development in Arizona.

What is the main takeaway a lawyer will gain by attending this seminar?

There will be a future reduction in the water delivered to Arizona from the Colorado River, probably as early as 2018, With Colorado River water shortages on the horizon and limited groundwater, our interactive panel will analyze the priorities of water use under the Law of the Colorado River and state water policies to achieve sustainable development in Arizona.

How is this seminar timely?

State, federal and regional water officials are now developing water plans to meet the reductions in water supplies, and it is timely for all water stakeholders in Arizona to be involved in the development of water priorities and policies. Also this includes involvement of attorneys in state regulation of groundwater by the Arizona Department of Water Resources, particularly proposed changes in water regulation in rural areas to protect diminishing groundwater.

A record-number of legal seminars are on offer at the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

A record-number of legal seminars are on offer at the 2016 State Bar of Arizona Convention.

What is going on now in the world of law practice that makes this topic important?

Important active litigation in Arizona courts challenging state water regulators, including the federal Bureau of Land Management challenge to the ADWR for the approval of groundwater withdrawals which may impact the San Pedro River, one of the last free flowing rivers of Arizona, and the court challenge of the Residential Utility Consumers Office to the Arizona Corporation Commission rate ruling to recognize water improvements in rates between formal rate cases for customers of privately owned water companies.

What is the most common misconception about this issue?

The view that the common law of water determines water rights in Arizona. Since the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. California in 1963, which recognized the federal statutory allocation of Colorado River water, and continuing with the historic 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management, which established state administrative management of groundwater in Arizona, increasingly the state and federal regulators determine water rights.