Recharge in Arizona is strictly regulated under the jurisdiction of local, state and federal regulatory agencies. Depending on facility design, location and land ownership, the following regulations may apply.

Local Regulations

County Flood Control Districts require a Floodplain Use Permit (FUP) in cases where a recharge project encroaches within a jurisdictional floodplain. Approval of a FUP typically requires development of a hydraulic computer model to demonstrate that any structures, berms or other facility components located within the floodplain will not result in increased potential for flooding or erosion.

State Regulations

The Arizona Department of Water Resources regulates recharge under a complex set of laws known as the Underground Water Storage, Savings and Replenishment statutes, or more simply, the "recharge" statutes. The basic premise of the recharge statutes is that a permit system is established for all recharge and recovery activities, and the volume of water added to the aquifer through underground storage is accounted for as long-term storage credits that are available for future recovery. Generally, three types of permits are required from the ADWR:

  • Underground Storage Facility (USF) Permit - this permit is required to construct and operate a recharge facility. An applicant must demonstrate hydrologic feasibility of the project; technical and financial capability to construct the facility; operation of the project will not result in unreasonable harm to land or water users; storage will not cause degradation of aquifer water quality.
  • Water Storage (WS) Permit - each water storage customer at a specific USF is required to obtain a water storage permit (there may be numerous storage permits associated with an individual facility). An applicant must demonstrate the legal right to the water being recharged, obtain consent to store from the facility owner, and agree to comply with the operation plan for the facility.
  • Recovery Well (RW) Permit - recovery of long-term storage credits requires a recovery well permit. The applicant must demonstrate that the recovery will not result in impacts to other land and water users.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) consults on the review of USF permit applications and advises ADWR regarding compliance with the State Aquifer Water Quality Standards. ADEQ considers whether operation of a recharge facility will promote migration of a contaminant plume or result in contaminants being leached to the groundwater table. Based on ADEQ's review, water quality monitoring provisions for source water and groundwater are incorporated into the permit's monitoring plan.

Federal Regulations

Projects located on federal lands require compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Typically, environmental, biological and archaeological investigations are conducted to determine if the project will result in impacts, and measures are implemented to avoid, minimize or mitigate such impacts.

If a recharge facility is to be constructed within "Waters of the United States," a permit must first be acquired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. A jurisdictional delineation is conducted to determine if a 404 Permit is required, and if required, the applicant must consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and conduct the necessary environmental assessments.