Implications on Water Rights in Overhill Areas

Dated: January 8 2021

Views: 85

Since the beginning of America, the nation’s stance on Agriculture and farming has been vital to the economy’s success. Then and now, Agriculture has been the forefront of the country’s industrial sectors and has proven to be a great investment and is now a viable business. Arizona is not an exception from this. Arizona has become well known for its contribution in Agriculture, Cattle-ranching, Manufacturing, and the Service Industry. It has added to the State’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) tremendously. 


The state has prided itself on the cultivation and harvesting of lettuce and cotton to name a few. For this reason, many investors have sought out land in the overhill areas where most agricultural farms are located. To be able to acquire real estate and turn it into a vast farmland that is actually profitable is a great business opportunity in the area. To those people who don’t know what and where the “overhill areas” are, it is in Verde Valley. The small cities and towns found in the Verde Valley area are Camp Verde, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Cornville, etc. 


Most property owners in the overhill areas are into growing livestock, cultivating and harvesting crops, and tend to proper irrigation. This would not be possible without the presence of an immense irrigation system and of course, a source of water. Irrigation or the supplying of water to land, crops, and animals is a privilege that not many people realize when buying real estate in these areas. Although, this might not be known to many but having irrigation in a property does not actually mean that you would have the legal right to do so. 


For this reason, many buyers should look into the property’s Water Rights and its implications. We must first learn what the difference between Surface Water and Subflow is. In layman's terms, surface water is water that comes from all sources such as creeks, lakes, streams, etc. This is mentioned in the Arizona Revised Statutes 45-101. Meanwhile, subflow  can sometimes be underground water that is thought to be surface water such as some subflows in wells. 


Many don’t know this but in order to use surface water in creeks, lakes, rivers, etc. in Arizona, specifically in the overhill areas, an owner must have or obtain legal water rights. Water taken from an irrigation system and wells which are subflows are also required a Water right to be used. 


Potential buyers must have the necessary documentation that verifies their capacity to legally use the surface water and subflow. This means that the potential buyer must fully ascertain that once the purchase has gone through and they have the legal rights to the land, they must have obtained rights to the water source as well. Otherwise, the land would have no legal source of water for its irrigation system. 


Remember, Arizona law states that even if a body of water is within your purchased parcel of land, it does not indicate that the body of water can be used legally. This is a whole different system than what land rights are. Also, the water right may only be used on the specific parcel where it is registered and was originally used. The law also states that only under special circumstances can water rights be transferred to a different location. 


All these laws, doctrines, and documentations regarding water rights are vital when trying to purchase a parcel of land with a body of water, well, or irrigation system. Potential buyers need to educate themselves that not everything on a piece of property they purchase is legally theirs, and water is a good example of this. 

Having proper knowledge of water rights, land rights and its implications can help investors avoid legal proceedings in the future. This will also determine the investor’s capacity and ability to handle the responsibilities of owning a property in Arizona and especially in the overhill areas. The Stephanie Woods Team Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate BloomTree Realty 928-237-4455

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