Tucson:Water use may be cut soon

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Water use may be cut soon Source: The Tucson Citizen Publication date: 2000-05-27

By MITCH TOBIN Citizen Staff Writer Without voluntary help from residents, mandatory cutbacks on water use will be imposed in two to three weeks, top city officials warned yesterday.

In what he billed as "an emergency press conference," Mayor Bob Walkup said Tucson's reservoirs are dropping fast and creating a "very serious situation."

Water demand this month has been higher than in any May during the previous five years because of the unusually hot and dry conditions, said Tucson Water Director David Modeer.

"It puts us in a position we've never been in before," he said.

Since Monday, reservoirs have fallen from 91 percent to 88 percent of capacity, a level usually reached in mid-June. If reservoirs reach 60 percent, the city will enact restrictions allowed under the emergency water conservation ordinance.

The law prohibits almost all outdoor watering, forbids the filling of swimming pools and makes it illegal for restaurants to serve water unless it is requested by diners.

Violators first receive a written warning and if the situation isn't corrected, their city water service can be shut off. A fee of $250 may be required to reconnect the service.

In the past two years, the city has come within days of enacting the emergency ordinance, but it's been saved by the arrival of monsoon rains. However, Modeer cautioned that precipitation is probably more than a month away.

"Is there a chance of a water emergency? The question is when will that water emergency occur," Modeer said, adding that mandatory cutbacks would cause "serious economic hardship for the community."

Still, city officials say a concerted effort by residents to limit their water use may hold the emergency water limits at bay.

"This is a real problem folks and I hope you're all with us," Walkup said. "Now is the time to get the job done."

A week ago, the city-owned utility began urging customers to stagger their outdoor watering in order to reduce daily demand.

Modeer said it wasn't clear if the pleas have helped cut water use. On Thursday, reservoir levels went up 1.5 percent. That may be because the temperature dropped into the mid-90s or because customers abided by the utility's request for no outdoor watering on Wednesdays, Modeer said.

During summer months, up to 75 percent of the city's water demand comes from outdoor irrigation.

Responding to complaints that the city wastes water while asking its citizens to conserve, Modeer said city departments are "leading the way" by reducing their water use.

Parks and golf courses, many of which use reclaimed water, are being irrigated less frequently. Streets, Sun Tran buses and other city vehicles are being cleaned less often.

Councilwoman Carol West urged residents to follow the conservation measures she uses in her own home.

"I'm not asking anyone in the community to do something I don't do myself," West said.

She recommended using drip irrigation systems, covering plants with netting, using recycled water and installing low-flow toilets.

Although Tucson Water serves thousands more customers than it did five years ago, Modeer said the water shortage this year is because of the weather, not the city's growth.

To meet the strong demand, Tucson Water is pumping from marginal wells and causing some customers to get water with dissolved air, said utility spokesman Mitch Basefsky.

Tucson Water has received about a dozen complaints about the problem, which makes water appear milky. Basefsky assured that the dissolved air is an aesthetic issue and not a health concern.

Officials also predicted that once millions of gallons of recharged and blended Colorado River water are delivered to homes early next year, the city won't face a similar water crisis. "This is the last year this should occur," Walkup said.

For more information on water conservation, call Tucson Water at 791-4556

Watering schedule

Tucson Water suggests the following summer outdoor weekly schedule to help conserve water:


Homeowners with ODD number addresses.


Commercial/industrial with all addresses.


Homeowners with EVEN number addresses.


BEAT THE PEAK! No outdoor watering.


Homeowners with ODD number addresses.


Commercial/industrial with all addresses.


Homeowners with EVEN number addresses.

Source: Tucson Water/Tucson Citizen


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), May 30, 2000

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