Opposition to Rural Management Areas

Opposition to Rural Management Areas

Comparison with Arizona Farm Bureau Policy

Arizona Farm Bureau remains opposed to House Bill 2661, Rural Management Areas. The RMA concept remains fundamentally out-of-sync with Arizona Farm Bureau’s grassroots policy on rural water management. 

The Foundational Concept Fails to Protect Agricultural Users 

  • We cannot ignore that the rhetoric surrounding this bill has been exclusively and aggressively targeted at agricultural water users. Its provisions confirm this rhetoric by failing to provide the same protections that even our most stringent groundwater regulations currently provide for irrigation uses.
  • In practice, an RMA has the potential to be vastly more restrictive than a subsequent AMA:
    1. The RMA contains no provisions grandfathering in existing agricultural water use.
    2. The RMA would essentially require a safe yield goal in all RMAs by requiring the Council to identify actions “bringing the amount of water pumped into balance with the amount of water recharged in the Rural Management Area.” (Proposed § 45-653(A)(1); see also § 45-512(B))
    3. The RMA also contemplates regulating water quality. (See Proposed § 45-655(B)(4))
    4. The proposed language also allows an RMA Council to circumvent the current requirements for designating an INA within the RMA’s boundaries, meaning that the additional requirements of an INA could also be overlaid on top of whatever other regulations the Council approves.
  • The bill has no provisions ensuring the regulatory goals of the RMA will reflect agriculture’s economic, cultural, and food security impact on the basins in question
  • The only “practices” contemplated by the bill are those that seem designed to achieve reductions in agricultural groundwater pumping. There are no provisions requiring the development of new water sources as a crucial part of rural water management, nor are there tools for guiding development to take place on lands with historic water use.

The RMA Gives Outsized Power to County Boards of Supervisors

  • A County Board of Supervisors may adopt a resolution to designate an RMA based on its own  interpretation of the hydrologic conditions in a basin. It is not required to obtain data, nor are there any guideposts as to the reliability of that data, before proposing the resolution that would spark significant, permanent water use restrictions.
  • In adopting the resolution, the County Board of Supervisors also binds the RMA Council as to what it must address in the management plan, allowing the Board of Supervisors to tie the hands of the Council from the outset of the RMA’s creation. (See Proposed § 45-655(B))
  • The County Board of Supervisors also has full power to establish the pool of members from which the RMA Council will be selected
  • The RMA Council has no enforcement authority, but instead outsources enforcement of the rules it develops to the Department of Water Resources or, possibly, county and municipal government.


Rural water issues cannot be solved through hurried, unvetted proposals. 

Despite the number of years that this concept has been presented at the legislature, no meaningful stakeholder engagement has occurred – especially not outside of Mohave or La Paz Counties, despite the fact that this bill would now apply to any basin not currently within an AMA. “Doing something” is no substitute for doing the right thing. The RMA is not the right thing for Rural Arizona.