WATER CONSERVATION IN THE TUCSON WATER BASIN
The City of Tucson is currently using far more water than it is replacing. Options and plans to solve this problem in the future are severely limited because of the fact that Tucson, Arizona is desert land. With the population continually growing, and each populant continually using more water, something needs to be done. The only answer that can be immediately put into action is water conservation. This solution can be practiced by individuals, corporations associations, and many other people – people need to realize that they need to help now. Through research, this paper reveals the specific reasons that people need to conserve water now, gives some insight to help the reader understand why the water will run out, and tells the reader how they can help now.
Water is the source of all life, especially in a desert community such as Tucson, Arizona – where the state’s average rainfall is less than 10 inches a year (2c). Water is the reason that humans were able to settle in the Southwest, and without it, the great city of Tucson would be non-existant. Humans also have to realize that this supply of water is valuable and limited, and unable to support this region indefinitely. Since we, the local residents of Tucson, are currently using far more groundwater than we are replacing (8), consideration and planning need to be addressed in the form of conserving this precious supplier of life, water.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
In searching for materials relevant to my topic, I was faced with several options. First, Dr. James Riley gave me a couple of very useful phone numbers: one, to contact the Pima Association of Governments – (520) 792-1093 – and the other, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality – 1-800-234-5677. Each was quite helpful and offered to send me information through the mail, but my time span would not allow this. So then, I turned to the University of Arizona’s Sabio Library Reference search, available online at http://dizzy.library.arizona.edu/, and found numerous sources available by using the keywords Tucson, Arizona water conservation. Many of these were books that I felt were out-dated and inadequate to my needs, so I turned to some other search engines on the internet, using the same key words. I found several helpful sites, but the most helpful was the homepage for Water Resources in the Tucson Basin, available at http://ag.arizona.edu/swes/tucwater1/ — I scrolled down to the area labeled internet links to find up-to-date sites with the most information available on water conservation in the Tucson area.
In order to conceive the concept that our water supply will not last forever, one must realize where the water is coming from. As Water words, a quarterly newsletter produced by SAWARA, explained it:
Nearly all water used in this area comes from an underground aquifer formed over thousands of years of geologic time. The aquifer is made up of varying layers of clays, sands and gravels that have been deposited in Avra Valley and the basin which underlies the greater metropolitan Tucson and Green Valley area. Substantial volumes of water, accumulated from years of snowmelt and rainfall, are contained within the tiny spaces surrounding the grains of these sediments. (8)
This picture, shown on the Water Resources Research Center WebPages, at http://www.ag.arizona.edu/azwater/ (2d) shows a nice diagram of the explanation from above.
By understanding how these aquifers formed over thousands of years, hopefully you are able to associate that they do not quickly replenish themselves. Therefore, at the rate humans are using the water from the wells dug into these aquifers, it will soon be gone. So we must realize that there are many actions that must be taken, the most important being conservation.
In research data presented by the Tucson Active Management Area, it shows that Tucson is currently using about 312,000 acre-feet (AF) per year (1a). The major sources that this water supply comes from includes groundwater, effluent water, and CAP water. As show by the figure below (1b).
Water Supplies Used To Meet Demand – 1994
Source Acre-Feet Percent
Central Arizona Project 24,000 7.7
Effluent 11,000 3.5
Groundwater 279,000 88.8
(One acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons.)
As one can see, an overwhelmingly large amount of the water supply comes specifically through groundwater. The very source that is the most difficult to replenish because this groundwater supply has accumulated over thousands of years. But as the number of water users is rapidly increasing each year, as well as the amount of water each uses, it is easy to conclude that this supply will eventually have to run dry (2d). Since little of this precious water can be replenished as fast as it is being used, the only way to assist the problem today is to use less and reuse the water that we can – one simple word, conserve.
Conservation is occurring on many levels. The government has formed councils and committees to create new systems, methods, and solutions to efficiently use the water available to us. Such groups have formulated propositions that wisely use recharged wastewater, unsuitable for human consumption, for such uses as lawn water and so on (4a). They have also come up with programs that cause the water rates to raise once a consumer uses a certain amount of water (4b): Therefore, discouraging wastefulness by putting part of the punishment (a monetary fine in this case) on the consumer, and reducing the penalty inflicted on the environment.
This is a very effective and resourceful thing to do because the consumer should be just as concerned with the problem, realizing that they help contribute to it every day. Although many people think that one person really cannot make a difference, that is not true, because every gallon of water saved helps. Here are just a few things and numbers to get you thinking, taken from the Water Conservation and Beat the Peak (3):
Get a water-saving showerhead Saves up to a gallon of water a minute
Put an aerator in your sink Saves up to a gallon of water a minute
Sweep your sidewalk – Don’t hose it off This can save up to 10 gallons a minute
Fix your faucets Saves up to 50 gallons a day
Use the short cycle on your dishwasher Save 10 gallons of water every cycle
Check your toilet for leaks A leaky stool may waste up to 100 gallons a day
Take shorter showers 5 to 10 gallons are wasted every minute
The discovery of underground water is what made the desert areas, such as Tucson, the livable communities they are today. Without water we would not be able to adapt to these extreme conditions, making this state called Arizona — nothing. Therefore, desert states need to realize that not all things last forever and that they need to guard and use wisely the natural resources that are available now. Water is an enormous benefactor to life in the Tucson Water Basin, as well as the rest of the world, and the inhabitants must realize that eventually the source will run out and they will have no where to turn to. To prevent this, they need to prepare for the future and conserve this precious resource before it turns into a bigger problem than we are facing today.
Tucson’s future depends on the wise and efficient use of water – the most precious natural resource found in this barren desert. If we do our part, we can better prepare for the future and make this a better place for those yet to come. Best said by Daniel R. Patterson, an arid ecosystem ecologist, Both citizens and industry must learn to live in true harmony with the desert.
1. Arizona Department of Water Resources Homepage – by clicking on Arizona Water Information link, then Statewide Overview link, then AMA Overview link, then Tucson Active Management Area link, then Tucson AMA.
2. Arizona Water Resources Homepage – through the University.
3. City of Tucson, AZ Homepage. http://www.ci.tucson.az.us/water/tsnwtr/conserve/beatpeak/tips.thm.
4. Metropolitan Domestic Water Improvement District – Tucson, AZ Homepage.
5. Patterson, Daniel R.. Eroding Our Quality of Life. The Arizona Daily Star. September 24, 1998.
6. Sheldon, Dana. Estimated Water Balance. Available on the internet – on the Water Resources in the Tucson Basin Colloquia Homepage, under the 1996 Final Class Reports link. http://ag.arizona.edu/swes/tucwater1/final96.htm .
7. Tucson Regional Water Council Homepage. http://www.azstarnet.com/~trwc/prior.thm.
8. Water Words. Published by SAWARA. Volume 16, No. 1 – Jan./Feb./March, 1998.