Do You Know Where We Get Our Water?
Updated: Apr 4
March 31, 2023
Written by Niranjan Vescio, FOPRG Chairman of the Board and Town of Oro Valley Water Commissioner
The chart (below) explains Oro Valley’s water sources and use. It is important we all understand the good work being done to sustain our precious groundwater supply, which will ensure our continued growth and prosperity and wonderful desert lifestyle. So here is a primer.
A bit more than 50% of the water Oro Valley uses (9,354 acre-feet in 2021) is withdrawn from our underground aquifer (potable), nearly 30% is purchased from the Central Arizona Project (CAP, potable; i.e., Colorado River Water) and a bit less than 20% is Tucson recycled water (non-potable).
Starting in 2006, purchasing recycled (or reclaimed) water offset the potable groundwater used to irrigate parks, sports fields and golf courses (shown in purple). Then starting in 2012, by securing our full CAP allocation (10,305 acre-feet), Oro Valley was able to completely offset the amount withdrawn through an equivalent recharge of the aquifer using ~50% of our CAP water.
Furthermore, because we only directly consume about 25% of our CAP water, we store the remaining ~25% for that “not so rainy day.” Not a bad achievement in 25 years since forming the Oro Valley Water Utility, despite a severe drought and 40% population growth. In fact, the entire Tucson active management area is at or near safe yield, a bold goal of the 1980 Arizona Water Management Act to be achieved by 2025, but which only Tucsonans have already achieved.
Peter Abraham, Director of Oro Valley Water Utility, is grateful for the wisdom of those who set us on the path to sustainable water resource management 40 years ago, and residents are grateful to Peter and his team for bringing us the rest of the way. Oro Valley residents also contributed by enduring higher water rates and being some of the lowest per capita water users across the southwest. But that does not absolve us of the responsibility to continue conserving where we can.
We can begin by minimizing true “waste”, i.e., water that is simply lost during use. Directly within residents’ control is the water consumed at home, 57% of which is used for outside landscaping and to fill our pools, with a portion being lost to leaks, backwashing, and evaporation (page 4, OVTown’s High Water Use Action Plan). By fixing obvious leaks and making sensible choices, like not irrigating a mature desert mesquite that no longer needs water, we can collectively save a significant amount, as much as PRGC uses by some estimates.
Some who previously voted against the [Community Center and El Con Golf Properties] purchase on December 17, 2014, have recently taken exception to watering PRGC with the only water (potable) it was relegated to using, considering it a discretionary use when it’s really a commercial or recreational use with an quantifiable return on investment. PRGC used 1.4% and 1.0% of the potable water delivered by the OV Water Utility in 2021 and 2020, and regardless of whether you consider that a lot or a little, we should leave value-discrimination of the various commercial, recreational and residential uses to the numerous state and federal institutions, think tanks and conservation experts studying the economics of water use and CAP allocation cutbacks. Besides, experts at UofA’s Kyl Center on Water Policy have already stated closing Arizona golf courses won’t make a dent in the Colorado River problem.
Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf and the HOAs surrounding the PRGC are not water experts. We are residents of OV who support our Water Utility in achieving groundwater sustainability; affording all of us our lifestyle choices, including gardening, backyard swimming and golf. This is not the time for vigilante environmentalism. We need to work together and continue being good stewards of our underground aquifer. Therefore, FOPRG remains committed to promoting this very popular Fun, Fast and Affordable golf course, maximizing its return to our Town and residents, and advocating for ways to reduce its water footprint while our neighboring residences do the same.
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