/ Modified dec 5, 2023 3 p.m.

U.S. Department of Justice initiates water rights decree for San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

Environmental group says decree prompts evaluation of existing water rights certificates

San Pedro with water The San Pedro River post-Monsoon rain. September 14, 2023.
Summer Hom, AZPM News

The U.S. Department of Justice has submitted a proposed decree concerning water rights in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.

The decree establishes a court order that delineates the federal government’s water rights.

These rights are defined based on monthly flow measurements at four stream gauges that monitor the surface water and water levels across nine wells situated within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area or SPRNCA.

Robin Silver with the Center for Biological Diversity said the November decree compels the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Justice, and Arizona Department of Water Resources to take specific actions.

“The decree now triggers review of all the certificates of adequacy that had been issued since Congress codified assigned water rights to the San Pedro River, that was in 1988,” Silver said.

Filed in August, the order exclusively pertains to federally owned lands within the boundaries of the riparian area.

As a tributary of the Gila River, the federal water rights to the San Pedro River were determined as part of the more than 40-year-old Gila River Adjudication.

This adjudication seeks to catalog all water rights in the watershed, covering nearly half of Arizona

Certificates of adequacy were issued by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) after the 1988 ruling to ensure a sufficient water supply for 100 years to public water systems.

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