The University of Arizona

Water Law and Policy | CLIMAS

Water Law and Policy


Any assessment of climate impacts on water resources must take into account the legal and institutional structure within which decision making is framed. This project summarized significant climate implications embedded in key international, federal, state, and local laws and policies.

Research Methods

The methodology for this component of the project consisted of content analysis of a wide variety of legal sources, technical reports, policy analyses, media reports, and websites containing information about water management and climatic variability in Arizona. The analysis was completed in 2000.

Federal, state, tribal, and local water regulations were considered, as well as international agreements between the U.S. and Mexico. The major issues and implications of the findings for the state of Arizona, particularly the Tucson and Phoenix AMAs, were identified and discussed.


This component of the project has been completed. We concluded that Arizona has a reasonably well-developed institutional structure for governing water management in the more stringently managed areas of the state, such as the Active Management Areas (AMAs). This structure provides a basis for balancing climatic and ecological factors with human stresses, especially rapid population growth, on the state’s environmental and natural resource base.

However, the institutional foundation of the state is based on a relatively narrow conceptualization of climate variability, and thus is a source of potentially serious constraint to effective water management in times of climatic stress. Some of the existing institutions and policies, especially those addressing water rights, water storage and recovery, interstate and intrastate water marketing, water transfer, and consumer pricing, need to be broadened in scope and authority to manage water resources effectively under conditions of severe stress.

The results of this study are included in CLIMAS Report #CL2-01: An Examination of Arizona Water Law and Policy from the Perspective of Climate Impacts.