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Stakeholders Debate Arizona’s Proposed Clean Water Rules

Melissa Sevigny

The state of Arizona is writing new clean water rules for streams and rivers, following a rollback of federal protections last year. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, the proposed legislation is supported by business, farm, and mining groups but opposed by environmentalists.

The bill calls for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to publish a list of protected streams and rivers and adopt water quality standards for them.

Stefanie Smallhouse, president of the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, says, "It clarifies a lot of things and it puts the state in the driver’s seat which is where we believe they should be. The framework that’s been proposed strikes the right balance between clean water and clear rules."

Smallhouse says it makes sense to leave dry washes out of the rules because that’s about land use, not clean water. But conservation groups oppose the bill for leaving many ephemeral waterways unprotected. Haley Paul of the National Audubon Society adds the bill is weaker than the former federal protections.

"It’s less than ideal," Paul says. "If we’re going to institute a new state regulatory program to be protective of our waterways, there’s some elements of it that we think could be improved," including, she says, a more inclusive process for listing the protected waters, and water quality standards based on science, rather than a consideration of economic costs and benefits.

The Arizona House and Senate have yet to vote on the legislation. 

More about House Bill 2691:

More about the Waters of Arizona program:


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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