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This week, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a new bill that gives surface water users like farmers an incentive to conserve water on their property—by switching to less thirsty crops or upgrading irrigation systems for example—and be confident that any water saved will not be subject to the “use it or lose it” provision, or the loss of water rights based on non-use. 

This legislation protects irrigators who submit a water conservation plan to the Arizona Department of Water Resources from losing their water rights for use in the future. Now, a water user who is doing the right thing and conserving can be assured that they are not abandoning or forfeiting the rights to the water they save. 

This will keep more water in Arizona’s rivers because water users are now incentivized to use only what they need. By creating a voluntary conservation plan, water users can more effectively manage their water, and the entire river system will benefit. 

The bill “Water Conservation Notice; No Forfeiture,” (SB 1368/ HB 2056) was sponsored by Representative Gail Griffin (R-Hereford). It passed with bipartisan support in the Arizona Legislature, unanimously in both houses.  

Nearly one thousand Audubon advocates in Arizona urged their legislators to support this important legislation. 

In an arid state like Arizona, it is critical that we update our water laws and create proactive water policies that protect Arizona’s rivers and riparian habitat which are essential for birds and people. We all depend on flowing rivers and the habitat they sustain. This is a pivotal step forward.

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