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After 'use it or lose it' water policy, HB 2056 allows farmers to keep water, still use it wisely

Agriculture Arizona
Posted at 9:34 PM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-05 00:34:04-04

BENSON, AZ — Andrew and Sarah Ogilvie have been running the Ogilvie Cattle Company for five years in Benson, raising Angus cattle on more than 200 acres along the San Pedro River.

More than half of their land is irrigated, meaning lots of water to keep their grass green and livestock hydrated.

“It does take water to irrigate it but at the same time we’ve been making large leaps in terms of the efficiency in the amounts of water that we use,” Andrew Ogilvie says.

In the past, the problem with trying to conserve water on farms and ranches in Arizona is that all of the surface water allotted to them needed to be used, or else they could lose access to that water through what is known as “forfeiture abandonment.”

In other words, if they don’t use it, they lose it.

Haley Paul, a Policy Director with the National Audubon Society, says farmers wanted to conserve and do the right thing but had a disincentive to conserve for years.

That changed this year thanks to House Bill 2056, sponsored by Representative Gail Griffin.

The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey in early February, allows water stakeholders to keep their water and use it wisely without losing it to the state.

“The fact that this passed so smoothly and in a bipartisan fashion is a great testament to when sound water policy ideas are presented, lots of different stakeholders get on board how we can move on these kinds of tough issues but we can all agree that using water wisely is important,” Paul states.

Paul also says that stakeholders can be confident that if they file a water conservation plan with the Arizona Department of Water Resources, they won’t be subject to losing that water in the future.

It’s a huge win for irrigators, ranchers, and farmers like the Ogilvies of Benson.

“Any law that encourages conservation is going to be a win for everybody,” Sarah Ogilvie states. “Water is a precious resource and I think a lot of people forget that.”