Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation on Thursday to ensure clean water in nearly 800 Arizona streams, lakes and rivers that are critical for drinking, fishing and recreation.
“Living in the desert, the value of water is something we in Arizona know well, and we have taken great steps to protect it, including the Groundwater Management Act and the Drought Contingency Plan,” said Governor Ducey. “But just having water is not enough. We need to ensure our water supplies are clean and safe. That’s why I signed into law another landmark Arizona water protection bill — the Surface Water Protection Program providing protections for nearly 800 Arizona streams, lakes, and rivers.”
House Bill (HB) 2691 implements the Arizona Surface Water Protection Program by creating a list of rivers, streams, and lakes used for drinking, recreation and fishing that are protected from harmful discharge of any pollutant. Specifically, the legislation:
- Preserves important water quality safeguards and provides clarity and consistency to the regulated community,;
- Promotes transparency by providing a defined list of protected Arizona waters that will be protected through a permitting program, as well as Geographic Information System map functionality, on the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) website; and
- Provides an opportunity to develop meaningful and impactful best management practices that will protect these important waterways.
“This legislation protects and regulates discharges into Arizona surface waters that are used for drinking water sources, fishing, swimming and other recreational activities,” said Representative Gail Griffin, who sponsored the legislation, of Legislative District 14. “We don’t need to rely on the federal government to tell us how to regulate our waters. We have taken this important responsibility that requires best management practices to ensure that discharges do not cause violations in water quality standards.”
“With this legislation Arizona will protect its most important waters that are not currently regulated by the federal government in a streamlined and locally responsive way,” said ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera.
Governor Ducey applauded the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s 2020 decision to improve the federal Clean Water Act and committed that Arizona welcomes the need to protect state surface waters. Unlike previous federal efforts to regulate every dry ditch in the desert, Arizona focused on protecting actual waters with tools specific to Arizona.
As Governor Ducey wrote on Inauguration Day, Washington, D.C. should take note of what is happening in the states across the country. When it comes to protecting water, Arizona is leading by example.
HB 2691 is the first Arizona-specific water quality protection bill enacted since the Aquifer Protection Permit program in 1991, and together, these two programs will serve to protect the quality of both Arizona’s surface and groundwater resources.
More information on the Surface Water Protection Program, including the draft list of protected waters is available on ADEQ’s website.