Water Ruling 'Means Death' for Major Arizona River, Conservationist Says

August 10, 2018

By Ian James

Arizona’s Supreme Court cleared the way for a new development with nearly 7,000 homes near the San Pedro River, siding with state water regulators in a hotly contested decision that conservationists say will threaten one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southwest.

The court backed the conclusion of the Arizona Department of Water Resources that there is an adequate water supply for the proposed development, which would rely on groundwater pumped from the desert aquifer about 5 miles from the river in Sierra Vista.

In its opinion Thursday, a 4-3 majority of the justices said the agency isn't required to consider the federal government’s "reserved" water rights in the area in its determination on the availability of water supplies.

Opponents of planned development said if the decision holds, it will be disastrous not only for the San Pedro and the wildlife that depends on it, but also for other streams and rivers throughout the state.

“If this ruling stands, then this ruling means death to the San Pedro River,” said Robin Silver, a co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity who has fought the project for years. “We’re going to appeal this ruling into the federal courts, and we’re going to do it as fast as we can.”

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