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State needs rules for exempt water wells

No, there is not an ongoing legal suit filed by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) against the Arizona Association of Realtors. However, they are at odds in some areas regarding the management of private water wells (exempt wells by the ADWR) in Arizona.  The Groundwater Management Act of 1980 authorized the existence of the ADWR and tasked them to manage and regulate Arizona’s groundwater. They have done this quite well in some areas, but there were other areas where they failed to address certain issues involving private water wells.

Gary Hix

The issue highlighted herein is that the Arizona Association of Realtors as a trade association has usurped ADWR’s authority by enacting standards for the management of all exempt wells in the state of Arizona during sales and transfer of real estate. This is being done by the Realtors without authorization by our Legislature or with rules formed under the 1980 law.

The Realtors group has authorized and put into place two forms that all Realtors must use to inform buyers of real estate served by private water wells. They must be used for each transaction involving private or shared water wells. They are the Domestic Water Well Addendum and the Domestic Water Well Water Use Addendum Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement. These forms were never authorized by the Groundwater Act so why did the Realtors take it upon themselves to promulgate these forms?  They did it because it was essential information necessary for the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of home buyers relying on exempt wells.  Something that the state of Arizona has thus far failed to do.

Five days after the signing of a contract for the sale of a property whose water supply comes from either a private or a shared water well, the two Realtor forms come into play. The first, the addendum, must be signed by both the seller and the buyer. This informs the buyer that the home is supplied with water by an exempt water well. The second form, the disclosure statement, provides the buyer with the best detailed information about the well that the seller can provide. Most well owners are not familiar with the information requested on the form. The “best information that the seller can provide” is what a buyer gets from this form.

Almost everyone assumes that the well driller is the same person who puts the pump in their well.  The truth is that there are well drillers who do not install pumps and pump installers who do not drill wells. The Arizona Department of Water Resources licenses and regulates water well drilling contractors, but it does not regulate contractors who only install pumps. Pump installers are licensed by the Registrar of Contractors with no oversight by ADWR.

If ADWR regulated pump installers as they do well drillers and the pump installers were compelled to provide the essential information about the equipped well that well driller does about the construction of the well, this would fill in data gaps in the ADWR records. The ADWR has a form 55-56 Pump Installation Completion Report, but it requires the well owner to complete and submit it to them, not the pump installers. There is no penalty for well owners not submitting this form, hence the data are often missing.

Many other states license both well drillers and pump installers for a more complete management of what is possibly a state’s most precious resource, groundwater. It’s a shame that a trade association had to take matters into their own hands to get essential information about the equipped water well and how it performs. Perhaps it’s time for the state of Arizona to step up and do as other states have done, get involved in the sale and transfer of real estate served by water wells. Private water well owners deserve to have the same level of assurance of their future water supply as citizens who live in big subdivisions.

Gary Hix is a past president of the Arizona Water Well Association.

 

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