Right now, the massive Colorado River water storage system is in crisis and facing the potential of total failure — a “dead pool” scenario where Lake Mead water levels drop so low they are unable to deliver water to Tucson and people across the West. In August, Tucson moved up from a Tier 1 to a Tier 2 Colorado River shortage, triggering additional drought response measures. But have these measures resulted in real change in our community?
As federal, state, and local governments are slow to collaborate and take action on this crisis, what are our communities doing? With your help, we can shift to a hydro-local approach, stewarding and valuing local water resources like rainwater, greywater, stormwater, and annually-renewed groundwater instead of depleting the Colorado River.
WMG's Hydro-Local Conservation Policy Efforts:
1. Expand conservation incentives to all water users in the Tucson basin. There are many people living in the greater Tucson area who don’t get the water conservation incentives offered by Tucson Water – people who get water from wells instead, or are served by smaller water utilities (think Winterhaven or Metro Hub). Everyone is tapping into the same shared aquifer, so everyone should have access to conservation programs.
Here's what we can do:
- Extend rainwater and greywater harvesting incentives to everyone (not just Tucson Water customers).
- Launch a pilot to extend toilet rebates to everyone – let's make sure everyone in the Greater Tucson Area has a low-water use toilet (not just Tucson Water customers).
- Streamline permitting for composting toilets to be easy and affordable through the City and County, and extend toilet rebates to cover composting toilets as well as flush toilets.
2. Extend "Conservation Rates" to Tucson's Commercial Water Users. Conservation incentives are already included in pricing for Tucson Water's residential customers, because if residences use over a certain amount of water, they pay more per unit – encouraging lower water use. However, commercial users pay the same amount per unit no matter how much water they use, even though commercial users tend to use more water per capita than residential users in Tucson. WMG believes extending this incentive to save water for commercial users is a practical, equitable solution for smart water conservation in Tucson.
3. Prioritize recycled water for groundwater recharge, river flow, and essential irrigation for schools and parks. All water is valuable in a One Water approach, including recycled water, so this water should be priced similarly to potable supplies.
- Ban non-functional turf in new developments and phase out non-functional turf in commercial and residential settings through restrictions and conservation incentives to remove turf.
- Stop offering recycled water for a cheap price to golf courses and Homeowners Association (HOA) landscapes, and ask them to pay their fair share. This water is valuable!
4. Update the City of Tucson/Tucson Water’s Drought Preparedness and Response Plan to be based on local watershed conditions—including local annual rainfall and groundwater levels. Our current drought response is solely based on water levels in Lake Mead, and doesn’t consider local watershed conditions at all. In order to ensure a climate resilient community and sustainable water supply, the City of Tucson’s drought response must be updated to consider local watershed conditions and have corresponding drought response measures to protect our local groundwater supply.
- Require new residential and commercial developments to implement Net Blue Development practices. These include requiring water offsets for developments of 1.5 times the amount of water they use or greater, and implementing sustainable practices on their sites, within the Tucson Water Service Area, or in areas impacted by their groundwater pumping.
At WMG, we’re working toward a watershed-wide response to go hydro-local at the grassroots and policy levels. With your support today, we can continue to advocate for community conservation and visionary policy changes that steward our watershed and create a secure water future.