Beneficial Use: Is it time to get rid of lawns?

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February 2, 2023 – An agreement over reduced allocations of the parched Colorado River water system is far from over, with six of the seven states submitting their plan to the Bureau of Reclamation on January 30 and California submitting a separate plan the next day.

Like the six-state plan, California’s proposal envisions about 2 million acre-feet in reductions to deliveries to the three states in the lower basin, which include Arizona, Nevada and California.  Where it differs is that Arizona and Nevada will take the majority of cuts.  According to Tucson.comOpens in a new tab.,

The largest possible cuts envisioned by California could theoretically strip all supplies from the Central Arizona Project canal system serving river water to the Tucson and Phoenix areas. But California officials insist it’s not their intent to shut down the CAP because even the biggest cut would leave Arizona enough water to satisfy essential, but as yet undefined, ‘public health and safety’ needs.

An idea reported by the Desert Sun is for the feds to ban lawn watering throughout the southwestOpens in a new tab., citing the head of Arizona’s Department of Water Resources (ADWR)’s interpretation of beneficial use of the water.  The federal government could impose its own plan for severe cuts to Colorado River water deliveries if the seven states cannot reach an agreement.  “Nonfunctioning turf” such as lawns do not create public or economic benefits, or beneficial use, and according to the Desert SunOpens in a new tab., ADWR’s Tom Buschatzke said he would like to see the feds’ enforcement of beneficial use clauses in Colorado River system contracts “move forward as quickly as possible.”

Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the two large reservoirs on the system, have benefited from recent precipitation but, according to NewsweekOpens in a new tab., it will take years of above-average snowfall and reduced use to fully replenish the reservoirs.


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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