Surface Water Rights

Mission Statement

To ensure a long-term, sufficient, and secure water supply for the State by promoting, allocating, and comprehensively managing in an environmentally and economically sound manner the rights and interests of the State’s surface water resources for the citizens of Arizona.

Surface Water

“Waters of all sources, flowing in streams, canyons, ravines or other natural channels, or in definite underground channels, whether perennial or intermittent, floodwaters, wastewaters, or surplus water, and of lakes, ponds and springs on the surface.”
(Arizona Revised Statutes § 45-101)

Meadow Lake

Public Water Code

Early in its history, Arizona adopted the doctrine of prior appropriation to govern the use of surface water. This doctrine is based on the tenet of “first in time, first in right” which means that the person who first puts the water to a beneficial use acquires a right that is better than later appropriators of the water. Prior to June 12, 1919, a person could acquire a surface water right simply by applying the water to a beneficial use and posting a notice of the appropriation at the point of diversion. On June 12, 1919, the Arizona surface water code was enacted. Now known as the Public Water Code, this law provides that a person must apply for and obtain a permit in order to appropriate surface water.


Surface Water Statutes