Tucson official: Awareness, not alarm, should be takeaway from r - Tucson News Now

Tucson official: Awareness, not alarm, should be takeaway from river report

Santa Cruz River (Source: Tucson News Now) Santa Cruz River (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A report issued by American Rivers entitled "America's Most Endangered Rivers 2017" ranks the Lower Colorado River as No. 1.

It talks about a looming shortage, threatened security and food supplies, and says the river is at a breaking point.

The report says the river provides drinking water to 30 million people, one in 10 Americans, "in fast growing metropolitan areas including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego and Los Angeles."

Experts agree the Colorado River is over-allocated but conservation efforts over the past several years have lessened "the overuse of the river."

Under the section labeled "The Threat" the report says that success is "threatened by the Trump Administration's Fiscal Year 2018 Budget."

The reason is the budget's proposed cuts could "potentially reverse progress made by states, cities, and farmers to reduce consumption," according to the report.

America's Most Endangered Rivers 2017 by Tucson News Now on Scribd

Tucson water officials say the report may cause undue alarm.

"We don't need to be alarmed," Tucson Water Director Timothy Thomure said. "We actually have a very secure water supply."

Much of that is due to Tucson's decades-old water conservation efforts. So much so that Tucson uses the same amount of water today that it used in 1985, although the population has grown substantially.

Technology has helped as well.

About 15 percent of Tucson's water comes from "recycled water," water that has been used before. But the reclaimed water should not be confused with what some call "toilet to tap."

"That's decades out for us," Thomure said. "We study it, (have) done a lot of research so when the time comes, we'll be ready to have the conversation."

In the meantime, other water experts say the Trump budget cuts will not be able to undue the decades of work that states and local governments have put into conservation efforts.

"I think it's going to be really hard for a single administration to undo all the government work that's been done," said Kathleen Ferris, a water documentary filmmaker and advisory member to the Morrison Institute.

Sharon Megdal, a water expert at the University of Arizona, feels it's the current drought that will have the biggest effect on future water policy.

"The big challenge for us here in Arizona is we are experiencing a long-term drought on the Colorado," she said. "Our planning must continue to focus on that."

The report, while serving as a wake-up call, should not set off alarm bells in Tucson but should serve as a blueprint going forward.

"If concern causes you to lose sleep at night, I would not be concerned to that degree," Thomure said. "But if a little concern keeps us all very efficient with our water use and always have that ethic to take care of that supply, then I think a little concern is a good thing."

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