Tucson Water’s 1998 Status of the Aquifer report profiled a desert community with a bleak water future: Tucson was the largest American city solely reliant on pumping groundwater to meet its drinking needs, water tables were falling, and the ground was sinking in places because of overpumping—a phenomenon called subsidence. The 2018 Status and Quality of the Aquifer report shows how Tucson reversed those trends to create a sustainable water supply for our community. Here are some key points from the 2018 report:
1) Since 1998, Tucson Water has dramatically reduced dependence on groundwater by retooling how we treat and deliver Colorado River water, expanding the use of reclaimed water, bringing rain/stormwater into our water portfolio, and reducing drinking water use through innovative conservation programs, education, and incentives.
2) We invested in two massive projects and are participating in a third to recharge Colorado River water in local aquifers. Two are in Avra Valley, west of the Tucson Mountains, and one is near the Santa Cruz River, south of Tucson. Today, most of the water we serve is from these facilities.
3) Because Tucson Water now recharges more water than we recover or pump out, we have more than four years of Colorado River water stored in the aquifer (2017). This water is available if there is a shortage on the Colorado River in the future.
4) Aquifer water levels are improving. The water table has risen more than 200 feet in Avra Valley and more than 50 feet in central and southern Tucson.
5) Beginning around 2005, there has been a substantial reduction in subsidence rates in the central Tucson area in tandem with rising water levels. This helps protect land and buildings from damage.
6) Conservation and efficiency programs have helped manage demand and improve the aquifer. The total amount of drinking water used in 2017 was the same as 1987 – even with 200,000 more Tucson Water customers.
7) Local and renewable, reclaimed water is treated wastewater used primarily for irrigation at golf courses, schools, and parks. Tucson Water has more than a year of reclaimed water stored in the aquifer (2017), and we are expanding our capacity to store more in the future.
8) Our aquifer is robust and our water future is sustainable, using renewable water resources first, only tapping into non-renewable groundwater as a backup.
Access the full report online by clicking on the picture at right. To request a free hard copy via U.S. mail, click here.