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Senior Couple Threatened by SRP

…Will you be next?


Urbain Beck, for Western-Water.com

CAMP VERDE, ARIZONA


(October 2, 2007) - Ask Clive Jordan about
his property in Camp Verde, and chances are,
he’ll crank up his converted ’52 Jeep and
take you on a tour. It takes about three turns
until the Jeep sputters to life, but soon
you’re off on a journey through one of the
Verde Valley’s most beautiful properties.
Along the way, you’ll see the Verde River,
some pristine high desert terrain, and even a
few deer. Clive doesn’t say much about
these features. Instead, he makes frequent
stops at deep holes dug all over the property
by a hydrologist he’s been forced to hire.
The holes are supposed to determine various
hydrogeologic features along the Verde
River. Although he has been fighting for his
life due to cancer, Clive and his wife of over Clive Jordan stands by a well pump that SRP
50 years, Noel Burgbacher Jordan, may be claims is being used illegally.

facing the ultimate fight of their lifetimes.

Four years ago, Salt River Project, which is the nation’s third largest
utility company, sued the Jordans and several other small property owners in the Camp
Verde area in order to shut down their water wells, which SRP claims are pumping
subflow. The ever-thirsty City of Phoenix joined in SRP’s complaint. Not only were the
Jordans faced with a lawsuit, but they were publicly humiliated in press releases that
essentially labeled them as thieves for stealing water out of the Verde River. The lawsuit
is still in process.

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Back in 1990, the Jordans inherited their 175 acre farm about seven miles
downstream of Camp Verde. Known as “Rancho Tres Brisas,” the property was
homesteaded in 1870 and has historic water rights to the Verde River. Only a small
number of acres are irrigated with a combination of the historic river water rights and
groundwater wells. This water goes to the heart of Tres Brisas, which includes an
irrigation pond that’s also used as a swimming hole, a couple dozen horses and cattle, and
the Jordans’ home and outbuildings. The rest of the land remains in its natural condition.
Rancho Tres Brisas is a frequent
destination for thousands of Boy
Scouts, friends and other groups who
like to swim in the irrigation pond
and camp along the banks of the
Verde River, which meanders
through the property.

About 30 percent of
the water from the Verde River goes
to SRP users in the Phoenix area.
On the weekend of August 18, 2007, Boy Scout This river water -- or in water law
Troop 124 from Phoenix’ St. Andrews Lutheran
Church set up camp at the Jordans’. parlance, “surface water” -- is water
that the courts have determined
belongs to SRP. Anyone familiar with Arizona’s “first in time, first in right” surface
water law does not deny that SRP has a claim to Verde River water. What people do
contest is SRP’s assertion that certain groundwater wells are sucking up the utility
company’s surface water because they are pumping subflow. In simplistic terms,
“subflow” refers to water that’s part of the river or stream but runs beneath the earth’s
surface.

SRP estimates that more than 20,000 small wells exist in the Verde Valley.
However, it has targeted just a handful of those wells in “test cases” before the Maricopa

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County Superior Court in an effort to show that the wells are illegally taking SRP’s river
water because they are pumping subflow. These test cases have created a tremendous
financial and emotional burden on the Jordans .

Shown is a partially-completed pipeline that will conserve water. Due to litigation costs, the
project has been placed on hold.

Clive and Noel Jordan are no strangers to water issues in Arizona.


According to Clive, they have had to deal with various water attorneys for the past 10
years or so. But the latest slam from SRP is taking its toll. That’s because there’s no
objective standard for what exactly constitutes “subflow” in the Verde Valley. In fact,
SRP’s hydrology expert has told the Court that NBJ Ranch is “probably” pumping
subflow.

Although they divert water directly from the Verde River pursuant to their
1870 rights, the Jordans also pump what they believe to be groundwater for irrigation,
thus preventing waste and illegal use of the river water. For many years, the river water
was transported to the irrigated fields by irrigation ditches built in the 1800s and early
1900s. This water is supplemented by a deep well system installed by the Jordans’
predecessors in the 1960s and 70s. Since moving to Rancho Tres Brisas in 1990, the
Jordans have spent thousands of dollars renovating the system with underground
pipelines so that water is conserved and not lost to spillage and evaporation. The
renovations are not complete. “We’re having to spend our money battling SRP instead of
improving the system so it conserves water,” Mr. Jordan mused. “We can live

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comfortably, but when it comes to this sort of thing, SRP has much deeper pockets than
we do to spend in court. The utility’s resources are essentially unlimited compared with
ours.”

“I mentally budgeted about $100,000 to deal with the SRP lawsuit,” Clive
admitted. “It’s turning into a lot more than that.” The timing of the lawsuit could not
have been worse. In mid-April, he was hospitalized for Hodgkins lymphoma. After a
bout in intensive care followed by a over a month in hospitals and rehab homes, Jordan is
still in recovery, having to fight for both his health and his water.

If the Jordans are forced to shut down their wells, their property value may
drop. Their Boy Scout retreat may be shut down. But there are other implications that
extend far beyond Rancho Tres Brisas.

Well owners who live by any river or stream in the state should be
concerned about the litigation that the Jordans and several other parties in the Verde
Valley are facing. Approximately 30 years ago, the state legislature enacted statutes that
govern the adjudication of water rights. There is a set procedure that involves
preparation of watershed reports by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR)
and which addresses the due process rights of water users. In SRP’s test cases, ADWR’s
role in mapping the subflow zone and developing testing procedures for the Verde River
watershed is being undermined. Normally, when ADWR prepares its impartial reports,
all parties in the adjudication have an opportunity to challenge ADWR’s findings because
the burden of proving that groundwater is in fact subflow lies with the state.

The shotgun approach that SRP is engaging in, by claiming that people are
“probably” using water illegally, may result in an Wild West courtroom atmosphere
where anyone can sue anyone for “probably” using water that does not belong to them.
This circumvents the statutory adjudication process and has the potential to create a
tremendous financial burden on water users in the form of expensive litigation. The
“burden of proof” will shift to each water user, who will be presumed “guilty” for using

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water illegally and who will have to hire lawyers and hydrologists to prove that his or her
well is in fact pumping groundwater and not subflow.

With soaring growth in both the Phoenix area and the Verde Valley, water
supply for the population, balanced with preserving natural habitat, is turning into a
heated political issue. Many fear that unless water pumping is regulated, developers will
deplete the subflow that supports the Verde River. These fears are based on projected
future water uses, however. The defendants in SRP’s “test cases” are not developers.
They are land owners who have been using their wells without challenge for decades.

“Unless we win, I don’t think SRP will stop with us,” Clive mused as he
walked along the incomplete pipeline. “There are people all up and down the Verde who
are using well water for their orchards and yards. Are they going to be able to stand up to
SRP, or will they fold because of the litigation expenses?”

Will this pastural setting become a thing of the past in the Verde Valley?.

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