What is Reclaimed Water?

Tucson Water uses some of its recycled water to produce reclaimed water, which is specially treated for applications such as irrigation, dust control, fire fighting, industrial uses, and creating/supporting wildlife habitat.

Recycled water is an important water resource. There are 160 miles of pipe in the reclaimed water system and 15 million gallons of surface storage in enclosed reservoirs. During the summer, daily deliveries of reclaimed water can be more than 30 million gallons (MGD).

What are the benefits of reclaimed water?

  • Using reclaimed water instead of drinking water for irrigation saves enough water every year for more than 60,000 families.
  • Tucson Water uses reclaimed water to support environmental projects like the Santa Cruz River Heritage Project and Sweetwater Wetlands, which provide recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat.
  • As an incentive to use reclaimed water, its rate is lower than most of the drinking water rates. Reclaimed water rates do not cover the full cost of service for reclaimed water. The amount not covered by the rates is funded from potable water system revenues.
  • Converting from Tucson Water’s drinking water system to reclaimed water can, for large volume commercial/industrial customers and some high water-using residential customers, result in substantial savings on monthly water bills.

Is it safe to touch reclaimed water?

The water that Tucson Water releases into the river is permitted as Class A Reclaimed Water by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. As such, it is rated for recreational uses that involve partial body contact--like wading, but not for drinking or swimming. Swimming should be avoided because of the potential for ingestion and contact with the eyes/ears/nose. Reclaimed water has been safely used to irrigate turf at schools, parks, and golf courses; and discharged in the Santa Cruz River for decades. No health-related problems have been linked with the use of reclaimed water, in Arizona or across the country.

Can my dog drink reclaimed water?

The reclaimed water that Tucson Water provides is approved for consumption by livestock animals. For dog owners, this is a matter of personal preference.

Why don’t all of the local golf courses use reclaimed water?

There are 39 golf courses in eastern Pima County. Tucson Water delivers reclaimed water to 18 of these courses and Oro Valley delivers reclaimed water to 5 golf courses in their service area.

Although the governments of the City of Tucson and Pima County have policies and ordinances requiring new golf courses to irrigate with reclaimed water or other renewable supplies, there are a few reasons why not all existing courses have converted to reclaimed water:

  • There is no reclaimed water service near the golf course and it is not cost-effective for either the City or the golf course to extend the reclaimed water system.
  • Existing courses not served by a municipal or private water provider are pumping groundwater under rights granted to them by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. The City of Tucson/Tucson Water has no legal authority to prohibit these right holders from pumping groundwater which they are able to do at a cost that is substantially less than the reclaimed water rate.