Agricultural Water Use and the 1980 Groundwater Management Act: Institutional Change and Water Conservation in South-Central AZ

Resource System
Watershed and associated topography
Resource Units

The seminal 1980 Groundwater Management Act (GMA) in Arizona, USA is an institution designed to curb groundwater overdraft through a combination of conservation strategies, augmentation and supply development, and reduction in agricultural water use through strict prohibition of its expansion in designated areas called Active Management Areas (AMAs). With urbanization pressures and the halting of agricultural expansion, agriculture in the Phoenix and Pinal AMAs uses less water on the whole than it did in 1980. However, in spite of the conservation and efficiency regulations imposed on agriculture by the GMA, on a per-acre basis, agriculture's water consumption is stable. Results from the institutional analysis indicate there was insufficient time to incorporate farmers' existing knowledge about water efficiency into the Act. Thus, after 1980, farmers lobbied for adjustments to the regulations of the GMA in order to increase their water use flexibility.