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Court Notice regarding Gila River Watershed Adjudication

Posted By Wally Reule @ Jan 24th 2022 12:20pm In: Sedona Real Estate Market News

Some of our clients with wells are asking about this notice of adjudication. If you received this notification, it's because you filed a Statement of Claimant for your well, which has been determined to be within boundaries described in the new Subflow Zone Delineation Report for the Verde River Watershed. Because your well is within the newly defined zone, the source of your water is presumed to be the subflow (underground) part of the Verde River watershed.

This is part of the Salt River Project (SRP) legal action regarding the water in the Gila River Watershed, of which the Verde River is a tributary.

If you believe that your well does not draw from the subflow, this notice says that you have the right to file an objection, stating why you believe that your water comes from another groundwater source.

Filing this objection would be very expensive because you would be required to hire a geologist and/or hydrologist to do a study to determine the source of your well water. You would then need to hire an attorney to package and present it as required.

I had a lengthy conversation with Tom Whitmer, the Cottonwood Utilities Director. He is very knowledgeable about this whole situation, and here's what he had to say.

For the average person, this notice is purely informational, because the expense to file an objection is impractical. But the good news is that the City of Cottonwood is part of a larger coalition that is fighting the battle for us. There are several other groups composed of municipalities and tribes that are also doing the same thing. He said that this has been dragging on for a long time, and he expects that it will be years before it is resolved.

In the worst case scenario, if SRP wins the suit, then there are several things that could happen. One is that those people who have filed a Statement of Claimant could have their rights be grandfathered. Another is a "de minimis" approach, meaning that owners would be able to draw a defined, limited amount of water. Or, SRP could put a meter on your well and start charging for water.

Nobody knows when or how it will finally be resolved, but it's a complicated matter that will potentially affect many people, which is why it will probably drag on for a long time.

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