Last week, we celebrated a major victory for Arizona’s rivers. On Friday, Governor Doug Ducey signed into law SB 1368/HB 2056, known commonly as the Water Forfeiture Bill. This new law modifies Arizona’s “use it or lose it” water policy, allowing farmers irrigating with surface water to avoid losing a portion of their water rights when working to conserve water on their farms. As the law stood, farmers risked losing their right to any unused portion of their surface water allotment after five years of non-use, discouraging conservation efforts like switching to low water-use crops or upgrading their irrigation systems. Our laws should encourage, not discourage, conservation, and this update to Arizona’s water law is a step in the right direction.
As is true with most meaningful victories, we didn’t win this one on our own. Alongside Audubon, other conservation organizations, and countless individual advocates was Audubon’s Western Rivers Brewers’ Council (WRBC), a coalition of conservation-minded breweries that support our work protecting rivers throughout the West.
Craft brewing is critically reliant on reliable and sustainable water supplies. Yes, water is the most abundant ingredient in any pint, but the connection is much deeper than that. Also in your favorite brew are crops from agricultural producers across Arizona. Be it the wheat and barley that shine through in your favorite lager, the fruit that flavors your go-to sour, or the hops that give your IPA of choice its trademark bite, Arizona’s beer and Arizona’s farmers are inextricably connected.
With a genuine stake in the outcome of this legislation and a passion for bettering the communities in which they brew, it’s no surprise that WRBC members jumped on the opportunity to support this update to Arizona’s water policy. When we first put our support behind this legislation in 2020, thirteen WRBC members including the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild collaborated on a letter of support. Unfortunately, COVID-19 led the legislature to adjourn early, and the bill never received a final vote. When the bill reemerged in 2021, President of WRBC member Sinagua Malt was quick to author an op-ed reminding readers of the deep connections between Arizona rivers, birds, and beer.
We are thrilled to be celebrating the passage of Arizona’s Water Forfeiture Bill, and equally elated that we get to do so alongside our collaborators on the Western Rivers Brewers’ Council. The WRBC reminds advocates and policymakers that it is not just birds and other wildlife that depend on sound water policy and healthy rivers. Our communities, economies, people – and beer – are all in this together.
So, raise a glass for this pivotal step forward for Arizona water policy. And while you’re at it – thank a farmer!