Tucson Water hits a milestone

Published: Jun. 24, 2014 at 11:32 PM MST|Updated: Jul. 8, 2014 at 11:25 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - There is little doubt Tucson is one of the best when it comes to water conservation.

For instance, there are 156,600 more residents in the Tucson basin now than in 1994.

Yet water use is the same. Not per person, but overall.

Tucson Water says water usage among the entire population has fallen back to 1994 levels.

Why, is still in question but there are likely several factors.

Better construction, low flow devices and fewer swimming pools inTucson.

But another is the price of Tucson water.

"It is a factor," says Tucson Water spokespersonFernando Molina.

Tucson was one of the first cities to go to a tiered system for water rates in the 1970's.

Tucson Water will give homeowners enough water for showers, laundry and drinking for a pretty low price.

But start adding in a drip system for landscaping, a backyard swimming pool or a leaky faucet and the next tier can more than double the monthly bill.

But the high price has also bought Tucson something many other communities wished they had.

Water security.

While things are always unpredictable, Tucson Water has set itself up so that it's banking water for a potential future shortage.

It's likely Tucson will still be chugging along 50 years out.

Part of that is a forward looking Tucson Water but the residents deserve much of the credit.

In the 1970's, when Tucson relied solely on groundwater, the community had a big water scare.

(Long timers will remember the Tucson City Council recall election in "76)

The area was growing rapidly and so was its demand for water.

Use was outstripping supply and the utility didn't have the infrastructure to keep up.

That's when Tucson came up with the idea for "beak the peak".

Who can forget the "don't water between four and eight and water every other day."

Pete, the duck with the bright orange bill, was everywhere on television and radio.

That image resonated and stuck with Tucson water customers, especially children who grew up to be conservation minded.

Even today when asked, Tucson water customers will say "we live in a desert so we need to conserve water."

"I go back and look at the attitude surveys we've conducted and compare them with other cities," says Molina. "And the people here genuinely be live it's really important not to waste water."

And that attitude will likely prevail as Tucson adds 8% a year for the next five years to the water bills.

Even though there is some disagreement whether higher prices suppress usage, the Tucson City Council has taken that position and has kept rates high.

It voted for the increases.

But the conservation efforts have also paved the way for Tucson Water to change its message.

No longer will it stress water conservation as its major component but will stress water efficiency.

"Conservation is don't flush until, if it's mellow, let it yellow then flush. That's conservation," says Molina. We're talking about efficiency, talking about accomplishing what you need to do without having a negative impact on your quality of life."

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.