Stan Turley served in the Arizona Legislature for more than two decades. During his tenure, he was involved in the creation of the groundwater management code.

Stan Turley: The importance of water

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

Stan Turley always knew that water in Arizona was important and precious. He grew up on Sundown Ranch, a dry farm and cattle ranch 25 miles from Snowflake, Arizona. He remembers his family didn’t even throw out the dishwater; they poured it into the barrel in the pig pen.

“Water was precious. We had no running water, but we had surface wells,” he said. “We were just brought up on the idea of how important water is and also like for your cattle or any kind of life, you got to have water.”

So it’s not surprising that after serving in the Arizona Legislature for more than 20 years, he is quick to name his top accomplishment as the Groundwater Management Act of 1980, which satisfied federal requirements for CAP construction to continue.

“The art of politics is to satisfy the irritated without irritating the satisfied. If you can do that, you’re doing pretty good,” said Turley. “I think we did it in that, in that Groundwater Act.”

But it wasn’t easy. Turley recalls traveling around the state as a member of the Arizona Groundwater Management Study Commission, discussing water issues. But they never seemed to reach consensus. Eventually, a smaller group called a Rump Committee met behind closed doors and they emerged with a plan.

“We took that thing in to the legislature and passed it without changing a comma in about twenty minutes,” Turley said. “No debate to speak of and the reason we could do that was because everybody that was concerned had enough confidence in the people that represented them in that group to say well that’s the best we can do, we can live with that. And we came out with a deal.”

The deal has long been viewed as extremely innovative water management and one that was critical for Arizona.

“It satisfied the U.S. Secretary of the Interior,” said Turley. “It did what it had to do to keep the CAP going and it did.”

Read Stan Turley's Oral History Transcript
Listen to Stan Turley's Interview - Part 1, Part 2