Regulatory Environment



- Prescott Active (water) Management Area (PrAMA)
- Verde Basin

Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition (UVRWPC) partners are located within the (PRAMA) and subject to regulation and oversight by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR).

The City of Cottonwood is located within the Verde Basin outside the boundary of the PrAMA and subject to minimal state regulation.

  • - PrAMA is one of four initial Active Management Areas identified by the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, and has been in a state of groundwater mining (overdraft) since 1999.
  • - The region has been identified by the federal government as having a “high likelihood of conflict over water by 2025.”
  • - Management of water resources within the PrAMA is directed by ADWR’s Management Plans. Currently operating under the 3rd Management Plan with the 4th Management Plan scheduled for release in 2013.
  • - Annual groundwater withdrawals within the PrAMA are 20,000 acre feet with 10,000 acre feet of overdraft
  • - The PrAMA includes 125,000 water users. 39,400 municipal service connections, and 10,000 independent private service connections provided by exempt wells
  • - Average regional water use is approx. 150 gallons per capita per day (includes irrigated agriculture and golf courses)
  • - The City of Cottonwood is the third largest water provider in the Verde Basin with 8,700 municipal connections.


–Water rights within the PrAMA fall under major categories governed by Arizona Water Law.

Groundwater rights – access strictly controlled by Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) provisions include:

  • Goal of reaching Safe Yield by 2025 (balancing the amount withdrawn by the amount recharged);
  • No new residential or commercial subdivisions are allowed to access the groundwater supplies in the PrAMA (since 1999);
  • Water conservation mandate for water providers, irrigated agriculture, and industry; and
  • Moratorium on irrigated agriculture supplied by groundwater.X

Surface water rights –

  • Governed by the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation
  • Defined as water on the surface of the ground flowing in defined stream channels or subsurface water that is connected to and part of a flowing stream.
  1. Although Prescott is the oldest non-Indian community north of the Gila River, most surface water supplies in the area have been appropriated by downstream users, primarily the Salt River Project.

Reclaimed water (effluent) –

  • Administration is primarily governed by Arizona Supreme Court cases Long vs. APS and Long vs. City of Phoenix
  • It is partially administered by the groundwater code as an alternative to groundwater.
  • Unlike other types of water in Arizona, effluent is “owned” by the entity that produces it. Surface water and groundwater are owned by the State and rights to use are granted to certain users
  • Within the PrAMA, almost all available effluent is directly used for irrigation or is recharged to the aquifer.

Rainwater or sheet flow -

  • Rainwater or sheet flow is not an appropriable source of water in Arizona as long as it is collected prior to reaching a defined stream channel.
  • Arizona has established few, if any, policies governing the use of rainwater or sheet flow. It is clear that rainwater or sheet flow can be used to recharge aquifers without requiring an aquifer protection permit, underground water storage permit or recharge permit from the State.


- Current available water supplies within the Upper Verde River Watershed (PrAMA) include groundwater, surface water and effluent.

Groundwater is drawn from the Little Chino and Upper Aqua Fria sub-basins within the PrAMA.

  • The PrAMA is an actively managed groundwater basin administered under the 1980 Groundwater Management Act.
  • Approximate annual groundwater withdrawals are 20,000 acre-feet per year (a.f.y.)
  • Approximate long-term annual recharge potential through precipitation capture is 10,000 a.f.y.
  • Average annual overdraft is 10,000 a.f.y.

Surface Water in the PrAMA (useable supplies)

  • Watson and Willow Reservoirs – approximately 1,100 a.f.y.
  • Lynx Lake – approximately 200 a.f.y.

Reclaimed Water (effluent)

  • City of Prescott – approximately 4,000 a.f.y.
  • Town of Prescott Valley – approximately 2,200 a.f.y.
  • Town of Chino Valley – approximately 50 a.f.y.
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