Environmentalists and the BLM are filing suit to block a housing development of 6,900 homes in a major Arizona water battle, saying federal water rights trump those of the state and developers. Hoo boy, this one has it all; Feds vs. the state, enviros vs. developers, private water rights vs. federal mandates – all made more complicated by Arizona’s archaic rules that treat ground water and surface water separately.
The lawsuits pit two longstanding legal traditions about water in Arizona against one another. The issue is: Can Arizona control groundwater pumping that could damage a river when the federal government has rights to its flow?
Those differences are so acute that a former longtime state water official, Herb Guenther, sees the dispute as a legal train wreck waiting to happen.