Protecting the Verde River, investing in local solutions

SRP purchases Verde Valley Properties to provide a source of water rights to the community and protect the Verde River.

September 14, 2020

The Salt River Project (SRP) is stepping up to help water users in the Verde Valley and protect the Verde River with the investment in two properties in the Camp Verde area. These properties were purchased because they have historic water rights that can be used to address local Verde Valley water rights issues.

Why did SRP take this step?

Decades of growth and development in the Verde Valley has led, in some cases, to the expansion of surface water uses onto lands without water rights. This could limit the availability of water for users with water rights, and further diminish the flow of the Verde River.

Under Arizona water law, the historic water rights on the properties acquired by SRP can be transferred to landowners in the Verde Valley that need them. This will provide a source of water rights, while also preserving the long-term sustainability of the Verde River for people and nature.

How will the program work?

While much is still to be determined, SRP has established several principles for the program:

  • The water rights will stay in the Verde Valley. They will not be transferred upstream to Prescott or downstream to support future growth in the Phoenix area.
  • SRP will not profit from the water rights transfers. The price of the water rights will be based on what is needed to recover the property acquisition costs.
  • The program is entirely voluntary – the goal is to provide an option to Verde Valley water users needing water rights that does not exist today.
  • Water rights will only be available to existing water users. This is not a water supply for future growth or expanded uses.
  • Agriculture will likely continue on the properties until the water rights can be transferred.
  • SRP will be a good neighbor and steward of the properties. SRP will pay property taxes and ditch assessments while it holds ownership of the properties.

What are the next steps?

  • SRP is initiating an outreach effort with Verde Valley stakeholders to discuss this program and obtain feedback.
  • SRP recognizes that the price for water rights needs to be affordable. SRP is currently looking for corporate partners to help offset some of those costs.
  • SRP will work with the Arizona Department of Water Resources on a process to transfer the water rights.
  • Once a process and price for the water rights is established, SRP will reach out to landowners who may have an interest in purchasing the water rights.

In many ways, the Verde Valley Water Rights Program employs a similar approach to the work SRP is doing in northern Gila County to provide municipal and domestic water users with a surface water supply from the C.C. Cragin reservoir.

In both cases, SRP is partnering with local communities to offer solutions to water supply challenges.