Drought Response Plan: An Overview

Living in a desert community means that Tucsonans can never take water resources for granted. The southwestern United States has been in the midst of a long-term drought for a number of years, and no one knows how long this dry period may last.

The State of Arizona passed a law in 2005 that required all Arizona water systems to develop a drought preparedness and response plan and submit it to the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) by January 1, 2007.

Tucson Water developed a Drought Preparedness and Response Plan that includes specific indicators and actions the Utility and its customers can take based upon the level of drought response needed, our use of both groundwater and Colorado River water, the attributes of our water system, and how our customers actually use water.

It is important to recognize that drought impacts to water supplies typically do not occur without warning, particularly for a water system such as Tucson's. With proper planning, Tucson Water may avoid experiencing a water crisis as a result of drought.

Tucson Water's Plan includes four drought response stages. Once Stage 1 has been declared for Tucson Water's service area, progression through Stages 2, 3, and 4 will be declared based on threats to Tucson Water's Colorado River supplies and/or local system indicators that indicate negative impacts to the Utility's groundwater supplies.

  • Stage 1declared based on regional indicators such as a severe and sustained drought on the Colorado River and/or a State declaration of drought in the Tucson region
  • Stage 2declared if an initial shortage (i.e., a shortage that does not affect municipal uses) is declared on the Colorado River, or if local system factors require additional response actions
  • Stage 3declared based on limited reductions in CAP deliveries to the City or if local system factors require additional response actions
  • Stage 4declared based on additional reductions in CAP deliveries to the City or if local system factors require additional response actions

Tucson Water's Drought Plan includes some of the following recommended actions:

Stage 1

  • Public education on drought issues
  • Modification of water system operations
  • Identification of water-saving and water efficiency measures for all City facilities
  • Additional measures which may include voluntary self-audit programs for commercial, multi-family and industrial users

Stage 2

  • Additional public education and additional system or operational actions
  • Prohibiting public fountains and other non-essential uses within City operations
  • City implementation of water-saving and efficiencies identified in Stage 1 audits
  • Requesting all potable water users to make additional voluntary reductions
  • Mandatory self-audit requirement for commercial, multi-family, and industrial users
  • Irrigation restrictions for commercial, multi-family, and industrial customers

Stage 3

  • Mandatory water reductions by all potable water users
  • Plumbing retrofit on resale for residential, commercial, multi-family, and industrial users

Stage 4

  • Implementation of the City's Emergency Water Conservation Ordinance
  • Restriction or prohibition of non-essential outdoor water use
  • Water only upon request at restaurants
  • Prohibition of outdoor misting systems in public areas
  • No filling of swimming pools, fountains, spas or other exterior water features
  • Cars washed only at facilities that recycle water (except for emergency vehicles)
  • Development of additional response actions if warranted