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12:45 AM Wed, Nov. 21st

Governor signs bill to test rain harvesting methods, hike instream flow rules

Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law Tuesday that authorizes large-scale rainwater harvesting pilot projects and increases requirements for instream flow water rights applications.

Senate Bill 1236 authorizes the Arizona Department of Water Resources to conduct large-scale water harvesting pilot projects in Yavapai and Cochise counties, although money is not included.

Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition technical experts already have designed such a project for Chino Valley's Old Home Manor property. It would test various methods of capturing precipitation that might otherwise evaporate or go to plants, then figure out the best way to get the water into the aquifer.

SB1236 also requires five years of on-site streamflow data before anyone can file a new application for instream flow rights to protect wildlife and/or recreation uses. Current law requires one year of measurements after the application but before granting a permit.

The pilot projects in SB1236 complement House Bill 2363, which the governor signed on March 27.

HB2363 creates the 29-member Joint Legislative Study Committee on Macro-Harvested Water to study the issues surrounding large-scale rainwater harvesting.

For example, Prescott Active Management Area water providers would like to get state groundwater credits for recharge projects, but surface water rights holders and some environmental groups are concerned that the projects might divert water that otherwise would flow into streams.

The legislative committee is supposed to produce a final report by Sept. 30, 2013.