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New Rule Requires Ski Resorts to Show Sufficient Water Supplies

Arizona Snowbowl twitter feed

Ski resorts on national forest land now will have to prove they have sufficient water supplies, due to a U.S. Forest Service regulation.

The rule arose out of concerns about limited water resources in the West. Jim Bedwell, recreation director for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, says it’s designed to protect winter recreation.

“We know that communities have built their economies around it, that lifestyles are built around it,” Bedwell says. “We felt it was in the best public interest to sustain those water rights with the ski area operation.”  

An older version of the rule required ski resorts to transfer their water rights to the federal government. The Forest Service abandoned that plan after a lawsuit in 2012. Instead, resorts will have to document long-term, secure water supplies when they apply for or renew their permits.

J.R. Murray is general manager of Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff. He says, “What the Forest Service now wants to do with this language in the new rules is just to make sure ski areas maintain the quantity of water that they have for their snowmaking and for their operations, before they use or divert any of those water rights to any other uses.”

One hundred and twenty-two ski resorts operate on national forest lands. In Arizona, that includes Arizona Snowbowl, Elk Ridge and Mt. Lemmon.  

The rule goes into effect on January 29.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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