TUCSON (KVOA) -The threat of water scarcity has driven Tucson’s innovative approaches to water use.
The push toward using reclaimed water started in the 1980’s, when resorts and golf courses were built. The city had recycled water, but had not used it at that point. City planners thought reclaimed water could get around groundwater restrictions at the time.
Reclaimed water makes up 10 to 15 percent of the city’s total water usage. Reclaimed water is basically recycled water that goes to a wastewater treatment facility to get cleaned up and used for irrigation.
“And today, we not only provide a lot of water to golf courses, we provide a lot of water to schools to parks, a lot of roadways are irrigated with recycled water,” Fernando Molina of Tucson Water said. “So it’s a really big benefit for the community in terms of keeping things green.”
Tucson Water has one of the largest reclaimed water systems in the country, with 195 miles of pipe delivering up to 30 million gallons daily to customers. The heart of the water reclamation system is the Sweetwater Wetlands.
“All this vegetation that you see here naturally treats the water, gets it clean and once it drained out of this, we would recharge it in the the aquifer and we would have it available for whenever we needed it,” Molina said.
The Sweetwater Wetlands is also a park and internationally known for bird watching.
Water officials are being aggressive and forward thinking when it comes to planning for water supply and use in the future.
“We live in a desert. No water source lasts forever,” said Paul Cunningham, City Councilman for Ward 2. “That’s why we have to be good stewards of it.”
Tucson Water is looking at ways it can store reclaimed water underground and access it decades from now when the extra water is needed.
Cunningham said the city is also looking at storm water capture. He said if the city can do that it will be one step closer to full net-zero water sustainability in the region.
“Every single city has water challenges, when it comes to conservation Tucson is setting the standard,” he said.
Read more:: Tucson leads nation in reclaimed water use