Are Your Arizona Water Rights Protected?

Are Your Well and Irrigation Rights in Danger?

           Over 30 years ago, the Salt River Project (SRP, a major electricity supplier in Arizona) filed lawsuits asking the courts to determine the water rights for the use of "surface water" in the Gila River System, including the Verde River and its tributaries. These lawsuits have been chugging along through the court system since the 1970’s, but it is now important for you to pay attention to what is going on.
Whether you bought property with a well already in place or subsequently had a well drilled, it is critical that all your well documents are in order and that you have properly filed, the 3 needed forms to assure you will be considered as a valid claimant for water rights.  
Why is it important that your well and surface water right filings are correct and current?   The Gila River System adjudication ( Of which the Verde River is part of) , will determine the relative priorities and validity of water claims.   Failure to file a claim could result in the loss of right to use "surface" water, which includes certain wells. Also, the Court requires that any change in address or claimant name be reported on the appropriate forms within 30 days of the change.  
The Judge presiding over another watershed lawsuit recently ruled in favor of the Salt River Project and soon they will be deliberating on the Verde River Watershed. Once they begin this process, the window for you to file your forms will be closed, FOREVER.  
We probably will not all live long enough for this suit to finally come to a close, but we will live long enough to see the window of opportunity to file our water right claims close forever.
When you purchased your property, most likely, your well was transferred into your name.   Wells are recorded by a number that starts with a 55-XXXXXX. If you had a new well drilled on your property, you were assigned a 55 number by Arizona Department of Water Resources when the well was drilled. Even if you purchased your property recently, the well may not have been properly transferred to you. 
Even if your well was transferred properly, there is other crucial paperwork I can guarantee was not properly filed, as title companies and real estate agents do not routinely file these other documents! 
There are 2 additional forms Arizona well owners need to file. One is a form for a 36-XXXXX number and the other is for a 39-XXXXX number. The 36 form is your claim for ownership of the water in the well, without it you have a well on your property, but not necessarily the right to use the water in the well! The other is a 39 number which registers you in a class action suit to retain your water rights.
In response to this threat to continued use of water in our community, the Verde Valley Water Users (VVWU) was incorporated to inform and assist the membership in matters pertaining to the general adjudications. The Verde Valley Water Users (VVWU), the only water organization in the Verde Valley dedicated to protecting water rights in the Verde Valley, has teamed with Southwestern Environmental Consultants (SEC) to research the status of stream and well filings for landowners in the Verde Valley. 
SEC brings 30 years of experience with water rights and well filings to this project. For the most recent filing with the Court, the VVWU developed a database utilizing ADWR records that identifies the owner of record for every registered well and water claim in the Verde Valley. This database will be used by SEC to determine whether the appropriate claims have been filed, are those claims in the name of the current landowner and is the information correct. The fee for this evaluation and report of findings is $100 for VVWU members and $125 for non-members. The additional $25 for non-members covers the VVWU membership fee for the current year. Fifteen dollars of the $100 research fee goes to the VVWU to help fund their efforts to protect Verde Valley water rights. 
If the water right claims have been filed, are in the current landowner's name, and the entries are correct, SEC’s report will document that information and no additional action will be necessary on your part at that time. Should they find discrepancies, which often happens, they will identify the sections in the claim that appear to have errors and provide an estimate of the fee to make the necessary corrections. Again, 15% of this fee will go to the VVWU to support their activities. This may be the best $125.00 you have ever spent on your property. 
If you would like for SEC to research the water claims on your property, please call Jamee Reddell at 928-634-5889, ext. 1025. 
      With the Verde River the next watershed to be adjudicated by the Court, it is important that your water records be in order and that you support the Verde Valley Water Users in this ongoing fight for water rights in the Verde Valley. Without a VVWU, there is not be an organization defending the water rights of property owners in the Verde Valley!