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  • The Water Resources Unit (WRU)

    WRU provides outreach and collaboration with external stakeholders on water resource issues by serving as County representation among numerous advisory groups;
    WRU administers the County component of state drought planning and meets to advise on drought status and review County drought planning in support of the Arizona Drought Preparedness Plan;
    WRU is acting as co-manager with the Bureau of Reclamation in a three-year study of the Lower Santa Cruz River Basin (LSCRB). The in-kind study offers Bureau technical expertise in applying climate change models to water supply and demand scenarios, charting the potential range of water imbalance in the region and developing adaptive management strategies to mitigate imbalance and climate change. The LSCRB Study builds upon the Bureau’s Colorado River Basin Study and the valuable data may be of use to a Lower Santa Cruz River Management Plan.
    Pima County is in the water business in ways you may not expect - land use policy, conservation planning, drought monitoring, recreation and riparian habitat projects, groundwater replenishment, stormwater management, effluent production and utilization and sustainability programming are all part of County water resource planning. For more information on how Pima County is a regional water resource partner, see the Water Resources Narrative.

    Water Resources

    Reclaimed Water

    Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department (RWRD) operates eight water reclamation facilities (WRF) with different treatment processes and utilization of effluent. The Arivaca Junction, Avra Valley, Green Valley and Corona de Tucson sub-regional WRF’s put effluent to use through either reclaimed delivery or groundwater discharge (with or without recharge credit). The vast majority of effluent is produced at the two metropolitan facilities, Agua Nueva and Tres Rios WRF, which discharge into Lower Santa Cruz River recharge projects.

    Pima County uses its highly treated reclaimed, or recycled, water in a myriad of ways including irrigation of County parks, golf courses and ball fields. Reclaimed water is also used to sustain and improve aquatic and wildlife habitats, for dust control and for long-term storage in underground aquifers. Effluent generation and reclaimed use is tabulated in annual reports.

    The summation of RWRD annual Effluent Generation and Usage Reports  quantifies numerous benefits furthering water management goals. RWRD effluent production and management has contributed to the future reliability of the region’s water resources through the usage of reclaimed water for groundwater recharge, reuse, and environmental restoration throughout the community. From 2005-2016;
    • RWRD has produced more than 800,000 acre-feet (af) of effluent, with 775,000 af, or 95%, originating from the metropolitan WRF’s.
    • Over 500,000 af of high-quality reclaimed water has been released into the Lower Santa Cruz River.
    • 169,000 af has been permanently dedicated to the aquifer.
    • Approximately 1,500 af/year is accounted towards riparian evapotranspiration, benefiting the river habitat.
    • Over 2,000 af has been directed towards County environmental purposes.
    • RWRD metropolitan facilities upgrades have reduced outflow from the management area by 77%, a result of improved water quality and infiltration - keeping more water within the local aquifer.
    • RWRD has delivered over 175,000 af to the Tucson Water reclaimed system, which water providers have used to replace potable use. The County has wheeled 12,000 af to its parks and turf areas.
    • Recharge efforts have led to the development of a flexible, renewable water supply of over 150,000 af.
    County Memo: The Region’s Largest Renewable Resource Provider

    Conservation Effluent Pool

    The Conservation Effluent Pool (CEP)  was established by the City of Tucson and Pima County in an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) approved in February of 2000. The IGA enables up to 10,000 acre-feet of effluent derived from the metropolitan sewage treatment facilities to be directed into a Conservation Effluent Pool for use in future riparian projects.

    County Memo: Conservation Effluent Pool

    Water Rights

    Pima County and the Regional Flood Control District acquire property with surface water rights, groundwater rights and groundwater wells on an ongoing basis. These rights and wells must be inventoried and the wells monitored and maintained. Pima County operates over 415 wells and has rights to over 9,300 acre feet of water. A water rights inventory report is prepared each year.

    Long Term Storage Credits

    Pima County has been earning credit for groundwater recharge of effluent discharged into the Santa Cruz River since 2003, with first recording of credits in 2005. Pima County holds more than 5,000 acre feet of Long-term Storage Credits from its participation in the managed underground storage facility named the Lower Santa Cruz Managed Recharge Project located along the Santa Cruz River in the Tucson Active Management Area (AMA). Pima County also accrues credits from the Marana High Plains, Corona de Tucson, and Black Wash recharge projects. In total, Pima County has accrued over 14,500 acre feet of credit.

    Water Conservation

    Pima County Water Conservation Ordinances

    County 2006 and 2007 Water Conservation Code Amendments mandate low use fixtures and use of renewable water for new golf courses, reclaimed-ready and rain sensor irrigation as well as restrictions on fountains, water features and turf. In addition, Pima County Green Building and LEED Certification programs, established in 2008, promote the construction of sustainable homes.

    Amendments to the plumbing code and residential code were approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2007. The code amendments require waterless urinals and automatic faucets in commercial buildings, sub-water meters in multi-family construction so that water use can be measured and billed accordingly, and new pools to have pool covers to reduce evaporation.

    City/County Water Conservation Technical Paper

    Pima County Comprehensive Plan Water Resources Element

    The County Water Resource Element of the Comprehensive Plan informs the Board of Supervisors of a development’s water use impact and nearby groundwater dependent ecosystems before changes in land use or zoning are considered. The Water Resource Element use of tools such as the Water Resources Impact Assessment and the Preliminary Integrated Water Management Plan (PIWMP) puts land use and water in context and assesses the impact of land use changes to local water resources and groundwater ecosystems, directing appropriate conservation and mitigation measures.

    County Memo: Preliminary Integrated Water Management Plan (PIWMP)

    Water Quality

    Pima County Resolutions

    Pima County Resolution 2017-60  urges the US Environmental Protection Agency to retain protections for headwaters, wetlands and intermittent and ephemeral streams by rejecting proposed changes to the federal “Waters of the US” rule.

    County Memo: Resolution 2017-60 and County “Waters of US” Comments

    County Memo: Retaining 2015 Clean Water Rule

    Pima County Resolution 2017-50  commits the County to participate in the Triennial Review of state water quality standards in order to protect human health and ecosystem function and oppose the diminishment or removal of water quality protections for Arizona’s Outstanding Waters, including Cienega Creek and Davidson canyon.

    County Letter: To ADEQ regarding Triennial Review

    Pima County Resolution 2008-209  expresses support for Army Corp of Engineers determination of the Santa Cruz River as a Traditional Navigable Water pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act.

    County Memo: Clean Water Act Compliance

    Water Policy

    The County’s Water Policy (F 54.9) as adopted by the Board of Supervisors required an implementation plan, the Water Resources Asset Management Plan (WRAMP) , drafted by the Water Management Committee (WMC) which is steered by the Water Rights Team. WRU is responsible for both an Annual Report Card and administering Water Rights Team meetings in the effort of establishing a GIS-based information database of water rights, well inventory and storage credits in coordination with other departments, per the Water Policy. Packaged within WRAMP is a Strategic Plan for Use of Reclaimed Water (SPUR) , drafted by WRU with periodic updates possible. In addition, WRU continues to monitor progress of completed Board adopted goals and recommendations of the Water & Wastewater Infrastructure, Supply and Planning Study (WISP), or City/County Water Study. An important use of reclaimed water is the Conservation Effluent Pool; established by the City of Tucson and Pima County, it enables up to 10,000 acre-feet of effluent from the metropolitan sewage treatment facilities to be directed for use in future riparian projects.

    Pima County Inter-Governmental Agreements (IGA)
    • 1979 Pima County-City of Tucson IGA
    • 2000 Pima County-City of Tucson Supplemental IGA
    • 2003 Pima County-City of Tucson Effluent & Wheeling IGA (Appendix A)

    Drought Management

    Pima County established a Drought Management Program  ten years ago as the state struggled with sustained drought conditions starting in 1996. The past two decades of drought include some aberrations, however, the overall trend has been below or well below average precipitation and above or well above average temperatures in Pima County and across the state.
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    Office of Sustainability and Conservation

    201 N. Stone Ave., 6th FL
    Tucson, AZ 85701

    (520) 724-6940


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