Arizona faces an environmental challenge: take responsibility for its own environmental management or cede authority to the federal government. For some time, there has been a decided preference for the latter. With that acquiescence come substantial problems for the state. This study examines one such problem: the heavy-handed regulation of water in one of the nations driest states.
The impulse to legislate tougher federal environmental laws reigns eternal in the halls of Congress. As that impulse grows, so too do the negative consequences for states that must operate under these ambitious programs. Well-intentioned laws, such as the Clean Water Act (CWA), operate in a one-size-fits-all manner, ignorant of the vast environmental differences between Fargo, North Dakota, and Tucson, Arizona. As a result, Arizonans pay the price with less innovative and appropriate local environmental regulation and increased burdens due to unnecessary federal oversight.
This paper proposes a variety of reforms to the CWA. Its chief recommendation is that Arizona pressure Congress to permit it to fully opt out of the law, leaving it free to manage and develop its own water program. In that manner, the promise of federalism is achieved, property rights are respected, and environmental management will match the needs of the Grand Canyon State.