Tucson’s Water Forecast: A Looming Crisis or Manageable Shortage?
Water scarcity is a global issue that affects billions of people worldwide, but it is a particularly urgent problem in the arid Southwest region of the United States, including Tucson, Arizona. Tucson, a city of over 545,000 people, is home to the University of Arizona and is surrounded by mountains and desert landscapes. Its water sources come from underground aquifers and the Colorado River. Unfortunately, water scarcity is becoming a significant issue in the area, and experts are warning of a looming crisis. This article will examine Tucson’s water forecast and explore whether the upcoming water shortage is a manageable crisis or an imminent threat.
The Drive for Conservation
Tucson’s City Council has long been committed to promoting water conservation measures, such as efficient irrigation systems and indoor water-saving practices. These measures have helped curb water use and put the city in a better position to cope with the looming water shortage. In 2019, the city made a significant milestone by reducing its total water use by 12%, compared to its highest use in 2006. The city’s conservation efforts have paid off in recent years, which is commendable.
Despite its water scarcity challenges, Tucson has been proactive in finding innovative solutions to the looming crisis. One such solution is the use of reclaimed water. Tucson Water began its reclaimed water program in 1970, which involves treating wastewater to tertiary standards that are suitable for landscape irrigation, golf courses, industrial uses, and other non-potable uses. Today, the program has expanded, and reclaimed water is being used to recharge local aquifers. Tucson Water’s reclaimed water program is a reflection of the city’s forward-thinking approach to sustainable water management and has been a highly successful program.
Another solution is the construction of a desalination plant, which would turn seawater from the Gulf of California into potable water. The plant would require a considerable investment, but it could provide a secure source of water for the city for decades to come. However, the regional stakeholders and governments would have to work together and overcome significant logistical and legal challenges before this solution could become a reality.
The Looming Crisis
The looming crisis is being driven by competing demand for Colorado River water, which supplies over 40 million people, agriculture, and industry across seven U.S. states and Mexico. Unfortunately, this demand has been exceeding the river’s supply, which has led to reduced river levels and increased tensions among the states and parties that rely on the river. Colorado River reservoirs, including Lake Powell and Lake Mead, have been declining, threatening water deliveries to Tucson and other cities. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, is just above its all-time low level recorded in 2016, which is not good news for the numerous users who rely on it. If this trend continues, Tucson and other communities that depend on the Colorado River’s water will have to face significant reductions in their water allocation in the not-too-distant future.
The potential water crisis in Tucson is manageable; however, doing so will require a concerted effort on many fronts. Continued conservation efforts will be critical in reducing the overall demand for water. The city will need to expand its reclaimed water program and explore other sources of water to supplement the Colorado River. The state of Arizona is working on a drought contingency plan with other regional stakeholders to address the looming Colorado River shortage crisis. The plan provides a roadmap for water management, including voluntary reductions in water use, incentivizing farmers to conserve water, and exploring alternative sources of water. The plan should be implemented as soon as possible to help avert a water allocation shortage.
Tucson’s water forecast is a complex and multifaceted issue that has no single solution. The city has been progressive in its approach to water conservation and is implementing innovative solutions to avert or at least minimize the looming water shortage. However, the broader regional issues impacting the water supply on the Colorado River are outside of Tucson’s control, and addressing them requires the cooperation of other states and parties. As Tucson looks towards the future, it is essential that the city and its partners continue to conserve water, diversify water sources, and implement a comprehensive plan that ensures a sustainable water supply for future generations.