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The Water Thing


The news is full of pictures of Lake Mead and Lake Powell and dire warnings about water in the Southwest. The good news here is that this may well be a wake-up call for some states and municipalities. As usual, the media is playing this up and having us believe that our water faucet will soon run dry. That may be the case in some places, but not here in Oro Valley. As a member and former chair of the Oro Valley Water Utility Commission, Oro Valley is in an excellent position. Oro Valley is currently drawing its full allotment of Colorado River water and has been for some time. We then “bank” that water and use some to keep our groundwater pumping below a sustainable level. As one example, Oro Valley banks water as far away as Pima Mine Road. We also have contracts and commitments with the state, Native American tribes and other organizations. We have and will continue to have access to a lot of water.


So, should we be concerned about a Tier 1 water shortage? Yes, of course. Can we do something about the problem? Yes, we can. The metro Tucson area uses about half the water that metro Phoenix does. We can do better. Nationally the amount of water used outside the house for landscaping and other uses is estimated to be around 80% of the total use. A combination of increasing the usage of drought tolerant plants and efficient irrigation systems, while also reducing or eliminating water features will significantly lower the amount of water used outside the house.


New agreements regarding the use of Colorado River water are being developed. The Oro Valley Water Utility is working with regional, state, and multi-state organizations to be sure our town and Southern Arizona receive a fair and equitable allocation. However, one clear outcome of the present Colorado River water shortage is that water will be more expensive in the future.


I am proud that, as a member of the Water Utility Commission, we approved the Northwest Recharge, Recovery and Delivery System (NWRRDS) which is a collaborative project involving Oro Valley, Metro Water, and Marana with Oro Valley taking the lead. This project will save the Town significant expense by bringing CAP water directly from the recharge fields in Avra Valley to the Town’s delivery system. Presently we are paying Tucson Water to move CAP water through their system and then to the Town.


Even as Oro Valley has grown, our overall water use and especially our groundwater use has gone down. This is a community that understands the value of water. As a candidate for Council, I will continue to work with the Water Utility. Unlike some communities and users in the Southwest, we reviewed issues currently facing Colorado River water users and then looked beyond the horizon, projecting and planning for possible future water issues. After all, it’s in our nature.

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