An ironclad understanding of water rights
VERDE VALLEY – Ask anyone in the know about water rights and water use agreements and they will admit they don’t know it all.
Since 1981, Linda Buchanan has bought and sold Camp Verde property. For Buchanan, the Salt River Project’s Historic Water Use Agreement process will add “simplicity and confidence in future real estate transactions involving surface water diversions.”
“I believe that transactable water certainty will add cash value to the covered parcels,” she said. “As a prospective buyer and seller, I will seek water certainty, and encourage others to do the same. Who wants to buy a problem?”
With a decade of experience in water rights, Shaw said that “things don’t get simpler with time.”
“We consciously tried to keep this agreement as straightforward as possible while still accomplishing its purpose,” he said.
Shaw broke down the Historic Water Use Agreement into three key points:
• “It is a mutual agreement in that both parties agree to the other’s historic uses. SRP agrees to recognize and confirm a landowner’s historic water use on the acres specified on a map.”
• “We agree not to contest water use on those acres in the adjudication and other forums.”
• “The landowner agrees not to expand water use beyond the recognized acres. The landowner also agrees not to contest SRP’s rights to store and use water within our project boundary. At two pages (plus exhibits) this is about as simple of a water agreement as they get.”
But the agreement does not address quantity, Shaw said, because water then would need to be measured and reported “which makes it complicated and expensive.”
According to Shaw, defining the acreage “is a much easier approach.”
“Eventually, the adjudication court will assign quantities to all water users,” Shaw said. “Those quantities will likely be physically regulated by irrigation providers, not at the individual user level in most cases.”
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