Happy 35th Birthday, Groundwater Management Act!


Stop by the display case at the State Archives to see some of the original documents from the passage of the Groundwater Management Act!

Water in the American West is always a hot topic, but it’s made the news a lot more in recent years as California has struggled with drought, and western states continue to discuss how to allocate water resources. Determining how to parse out scarce water resources in our own arid region, and how to plan for tough times, has been a part of Arizona’s history. 2015 marks 35 years since one of the most important pieces of water management legislation was signed by Governor Bruce Babbitt, the Groundwater Management Act of 1980.


Governor Bruce Babbitt

The Groundwater Management Act was written by a 25-member groundwater commission (we have those records, too!), who took a year and a half to learn the complexities of water laws. Tough questions they asked included who should have the right to pump groundwater and how much?; what methods should be used to reduce the groundwater overdraft?; and should groundwater be managed primarily at the state or local level?

The Act was signed into law on June 11, 1980. The law restricted new agricultural use of groundwater, required permits for new industrial uses, restricted the drilling of large wells, and implemented the rule that new development subdivisions be able to guarantee 100 years of water supply. The Act also divided the state into four Active Management Areas, with a series of water management plans adopted for each area.


Active Management Areas designated by the Groundwater Management Act

Prior to the passage of the Groundwater Management Act, Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus warned Governor Babbitt that funding for the Central Arizona Project could be threatened, but the reforms ensured that funding for CAP was secured. In the 35 years since its passage, the Groundwater Management Act has been lauded as a landmark piece of legislation that has left the state’s water supply in a more assured position from that of neighboring states.

We have lots of resources related to the Groundwater Management Act, including the Governor Bruce Babbitt records (RG 1, SG 23), the Arizona Groundwater Management Study Commission (RG 48), and the Department of Water Resources (RG 142). Stop by to see the materials on display, or come by to do some research!


Governor Babbitt’s speech following the passage of the Groundwater Management Act.