Arizona lawmakers voted Thursday to expand the state’s growth management efforts, approving a bipartisan bill to empower counties and cities to place new restrictions on rural development without adequate water supplies.
The House’s 50-1 vote completed legislative action on the bill, which now goes to Gov. Janet Napolitano, a supporter. The Senate approved the bill on March 8 on a 26-2 vote.
Legislative approval of the measure came a quarter-century after the 1980 enactment of a historic groundwater management law imposing new pumping and irrigation restrictions in “active management areas.”
Those areas include Phoenix, Tucson and Prescott. Those urban-oriented restrictions were aimed at curbing groundwater depletion that outpaced natural replacement.
Subsequent population growth in the nation’s fastest growing state has started to crowd some rural areas, leaving some straining to secure adequate water supplies.
In parts of eastern and northern Arizona, residents have to truck in water.
Elsewhere, there are fears that groundwater pumping could dry up streams and rivers.
“It’s time to address growth in the rural areas,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Marsha Arzberger, a Willcox Democrat and the Senate’s minority leader.
The new authority for rural local governments was included in 2006 recommendations by a statewide water advisory group appointed by Napolitano, and the Democratic governor used her State of the State speech to urge the Republican-led Legislature to give the new authority to local governments.