Water flows in Santa Cruz River for first time in 70 years

Published: Jun. 24, 2019 at 9:20 PM MST
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It was a big moment for the City of Tucson.

About 300 people braved the afternoon heat to help dedicate the Santa Cruz River Heritage Project.

Many more than expected showed up, emphasizing the importance of the project and what it means to the city. The reclaimed water will make its way down into the aquifer, where it is stored for the future.

“Unless you live in the desert you don’t appreciate the rivers and streams like Tucsonans do.” Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said. “Releasing water in the Santa Cruz today on el dia de San Juan when Tucsonans are getting ready for the monsoon to start it is especially appropriate.”

A lot of people have already come to see it. The water will flow year-round and people are optimistic it will be flowing for years to come.

People were seen wading in it and children playing in it, which means technology has made it possible to clean reclaimed water to standards that are not harmful for people to be in.

“I think it’s just wonderful it’s something we’ve been looking forward to for many years,” says Jim Strobel.

The nearly three million gallons a day that will be pumped into the Santa Cruz is treated wastewater, which will leech down into the aquifer storing water for the future.

Project manager, Maya Teyachan, says it will also open up the riverbed to wildlife and vegetation once plentiful here, but now only a memory of a bygone Tucson.

“It’s exceeded my expectations; this is great, I really didn’t know what to expect.” said Teyachan. “I love it it’s really cool.”

Pima County will dredge the river after the monsoon rains, diverting the water into a mid-river constant flow, but what’s already here seems to be impressive enough.

The river dried up in the 1940′s because of overuse. This is the first time water has been put back in the river to re-vegetate it and bring back wildlife.

To be clear, it’s not wasted water. It’s water which will be used to replenish the Tucson aquifer. In the past, it was pumped into the Santa Cruz at Ina Road and then lost to Pima County as it flowed northward.

Now, the 2.8 million gallons a day will leech into the aquifer, keeping the water in Tucson.

It will flow year round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It may see an occasional interruption depending on the amount of water available.

Pima County is scheduled to dredge that part of the river after the monsoon rains have passed and it will be used to carve a path towards the center of the riverbank.

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