Water is vital to life – natural life and economic life. We must look at the costs vs. the benefits for each use of water. In an ideal world, potable water should be used only for drinking and life sustaining purposes. Reclaimed water or grey water should be used for everything else – i.e. irrigation, sanitation, firefighting, etc. At some point it is likely the benefits of building such a comprehensive distribution system will outweigh the costs. We are not there yet.
In the meantime, we need to accept the fact that some potable water will continue to be used for purposes other than drinking. In Oro Valley, like most communities, residents use potable water for washing clothes, irrigating landscape, flushing toilets, and keeping swimming pools full. The good news is that we continue to find ways to make each of these uses more efficient.
The economic vitality of our town is depended upon managed growth and tourism. Oro Valley Water Utility acknowledges this reality and is doing all it can to secure and protect sustainable sources of water. The town is using reclaimed water where it can practically and safely. At this point, Oro Valley Water believes there is no justification for mandatory water use restrictions.
It is unfortunate that the Pusch Ridge Golf course is not already on the reclaimed water system. A decision was made years ago to seek an exemption from the state-mandated requirement for golf courses to use reclaimed water. It is also important for residents to understand that the town accepted certain responsibilities to maintain this and all its golf courses when it agreed to purchase them. This means the town cannot simply shut them down and allow them to turn to dust. Some residents seem to think the best way to reduce water use is to just turn off the water. The problem is the negative impact on the environment, the local ecology, safety, security, property values and the local economy would be greater than the benefit of any water savings.
The good news is that Pusch Ridge Golf has relatively narrow fairways requiring less water than many other golf courses in the area. With the reopening of the course there were strategies in place to significantly increase play and reduce water consumption (see photos below.) More play generates increased economic activity and provides a better return on the water used.
The town gave us three years to demonstrate the value and sustainability of Pusch Ridge Golf Course. Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf has taken on this challenge very seriously. Our first priority has been to work with the town to restore the course after it was “discontinued” for over a year and prove there is a viable market. So far, we are succeeding in creating renewed interest, play and revenues well above the town’s expectations. Sustaining this level of play and economic benefit hopefully will justify investments before next season to reduce turf and make other course improvements to reduce water use on the course. Assuming these changes occur and play continues to grow, we can then pursue ways to minimize if not eliminate the use of potable water. These efforts will take time and unless we do reach a point where mandatory water use restrictions are required, we ask for patience as we work toward solving the challenges.
We all must do our part, but we should not panic or take actions that will hurt our community more than help. The first step is acknowledging the problem. The greatest concern voiced among our 650-plus Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf is water efficiency and responsibility. Offering and then finding practical solutions is important to everyone. Let’s work together to find the solutions that benefit us all.