How Does Arizona Control Water Usage? | Real Estate Exam Prep

by | Apr 27, 2023 | Knowledge

What Is Groundwater?

It’s no secret that Arizona has a limited water supply, so how does the state control the use of water? Well, first we need to consider the difference between Surface Water and Ground Water.

Surface Water: is water that is on the surface, such lakes and reservoirs.

Ground Water: exists under ground in the form of aquifers. 



How Does Arizona Control The Use Of Ground Water?

Outside of these areas, you still need permission to drill, but it is not as restricted. The state of Arizona has 3 categories of “tools” in which they can control the use of ground water.

Active Management Areas (AMAs): Within these areas you must gain permission to drill for ground water, as the state directly controls access. There are *5 Active Management Areas in Arizona.

Prescott AMA
Phoenix AMA
Pinal AMA
Tucson AMA
Santa Cruz AMA
*Douglas AMA

(The Douglas INA changed to an AMA in 2022, though the state ADWR website still states that there are only 5 AMAs, it lists 6 now).


Irrigation Non-Expansion Areas (INAs): These areas allow current users of water to continue using it, but they may not expand that use. Think of a farmer wanting to use more water to plant more crops. In that scenario, they would not be allowed to do so.

Hualapai Valley INA
Harquahala INA
Joseph City INA
Former Douglas INA (An AMA as of 2022)


What if you are located outside of an AMA or INA in Arizona? Outside of these areas, you still need permission to drill, but it is not as restricted.


Please Note: Regulation, requirements and policies do change from time to time, this content may not be current or entirely accurate.

You may find the latest information on the Arizona Department of Real Estate’s website.