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Sustainable Water Future?
(Reprinted from the January-March, 2009, Rincon Group Newsletter)

by Sean Sullivan, Rincon Group Chair and member of the Water/Waste Water Study Oversight Committee

Back in April of this year, a joint water study was kicked off by Pima County and the City of Tucson. Twelve citizens representing other city and county advisory commissions were charged with delving into this pressing and sometimes divisive issue. Initially the committee took inventory of current infrastructure and water supplies. The basic facts and assumptions of water/ waste water management discovered within the inventory are now being compiled into a report. This report, planned to be finalized in February of 2009, will be the baseline of knowledge for the next task of the oversight committee, Phase II - Policy and Values.

In Phase II, the oversight committee will attempt to provide policy recommendations to the Tucson Mayor and Council and the Pima County Board of Supervisors. The recommendations will touch on issues such as population growth, land use planning, increasing the use of reclaimed water, water conservation measures, and the development of renewable water sources.

If growth in the Tucson area were allowed to continue unchecked, it will be necessary to acquire additional water supplies. Tucson Water and the "growth at all cost community" are focusing on additional Central Arizona Project (CAP) allocations to meet an unrealized but projected demand. Colorado River water is brought to the Tucson region via a 336 mile canal, the CAP canal, which initial cost taxpayers over $4 billion.

However, the City of Tucson is not the only area that has a drinking straw in the Colorado River. The river serves an area of approximately 30 million people, which continues to grow by leaps and bounds. But the river has been overallocated and scientists agree that a shortage is not a matter of "if," it is a question of "when". The manner in which water is used in the arid west is simply unsustainable. More and more communities are relying on the Colorado River to spur growth, but current conditions, not to mention future implications of climate change, cannot support unrestrained growth.

It is time to take stock of our current situation. We need to recognize that the area simply cannot support the levels of growth that we have seen in recent decades. Ignoring environmental limitations will only result in financial burden and environmental destruction. Do you want to live in a community that drains groundwater and kills the little remaining riparian areas we have in the desert? Do you want to live in a community that grows beyond its means and delivers toilet water to your tap? Do you want to live in a community that imports water at the expense of the environment in other areas, such as the Gulf of California? Do you want to live in a community that sticks its head in the sand and thinks that water is bound to come gushing forth once removed?

I do not believe that this community would allow those things to happen in support of irresponsible planning. We as a community need make our voices heard. Simply purchasing additional allocations of the Colorado River water will not create a sustainable supply. One day soon, the Colorado water spigot is sure to run dry. Go to to learn more about the study.

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Proposal for Water Service Policy in Tucson

Hello friends of the Sonoran Desert.

We all know that water is our most precious resource.There are (lots of) places where Tucson water pipes should not go. Places that should be left as natural areas. Attached is a memo (click here to view the memo [PDF file - 2730 KB]) where Council Member Regina Romero recommends that municipal water not be served to natural areas of conservation priority in and around our city such as Tumamoc and Painted Hills. If this makes the media or a City Council session, please consider lending this concept your support.


Mac Hudson

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Regional Water Study

A Joint City-County Regional Water Study is underway, with Pima County and the City of Tucson recently approving the initial steps of the study, and the outcome could have major implications for our southern Arizona environment. Decisions on future water use will determine growth patterns and how much wildlife habitat will be impacted by both development and loss of water.

This is an enormous opportunity to protect our land, water, and quality of life. We hope that individuals throughout the community will actively work on this issue. A Regional Water Study Oversight Committee has been formed and held its first meeting on April 9, 2008. The members of the Oversight Committee have been appointed from the Pima County Waste Water Advisory Committee, Tucson’s Citizens Water Advisory Committee, Pima County Planning and Zoning Committee, and Tucson Planning Commission.

The committee has been initially charged with three specific tasks:

1. Provide a public outreach plan for phase I: Completed – see the report here:

2. Phase I: Inventory and assessment of current water/waste water infrastructure, supplies, and determine what the sustainable population is based on infrastructure and supplies.

3. Phase II: Identify a stakeholder process to address needed policy and community values in relation to items such as land use, population growth, integration of water resources and land use decisions, and use of reclaimed water.

The current scope of work for the regional study identifies a total of five phases. Phases I and II are outlined above. Phase III deals with assessing infrastructure and resources for the metropolitan area. Phase IV deals with developing regional policies and values for the metropolitan area. Phase V deals with defining and developing a sustainable water future and livable region. The full scope of work can be found at:

The oversight committee has set a tentative schedule for presentations pertaining to phase I of the study which can be found at:

The oversight committee is planning on sending a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors and the City Council in October outlining the stakeholder process for phase II of the study. For more information on the study go to

Sean Sullivan

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Water-use Officials Discuss the Future of Colorado River

From the The Salt Lake Tribune, December 16, 2005 -

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The Sierra Club and Your Drinking Water

To learn more about Sierra Club's work on water privatization, go to You can also download the Sierra Club's bottled water brochure from this site.


Hopefully the water delivered to your home is pure and of high quality. Here is some information to help you take action if you are concerned about the safety of your drinking water or the growing consumer use of bottled water. Bottled water may be needed in emergency situations where local drinking water is contaminated, but it is expensive, a special burden on the poor, and its production can harm the environment.

It is Sierra Club policy that "National and local laws, regulations and pricing should be put in place and enforced to ensure sufficient quantities of safe and affordable drinking water for all inhabitants and to ensure the health of the planet's ecological systems."

To assist chapters and groups in making sure that public water supplies are safe and affordable, the Sierra Club is part of the "Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water ".


July is the month when most citizens receive their Annual "Right to Know Reports", also commonly referred to as “Consumer Confidence” or “Water Quality” reports. This report provides you with information about the source of your drinking water, contaminants that were detected in the water during the 2003 calendar year, the likely source of the contamination, important health information--especially for people who are more likely to be harmed by common drinking water contaminants, and information on how you can get involved in protecting your drinking water. Under the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act all water suppliers are required to produce an annual report informing their customers about the source and quality of their drinking water.

Water Suppliers are required to mail this information to all bill paying customers by July 1st. If you have not received a copy of this report or you live in an apartment and do not pay for your water, contact your local water utility to request a copy. To find out more information about how to contact your water supplier or to access the report on line see: "Consumer Reports" magazine (January 2003) features an excellent article about these reports and how to read them. It points out where the reports can fall short of adequate disclosure. It also compares and discusses the effectiveness of water filters people can use in their homes. The Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water and Consumers Reports have both identified why citizens need to read their reports carefully and do more to protect their drinking water. "If your report says on the cover that your water is safe, probably 9 out of 10 people toss it," says Eric Olsen, a senior staff attorney at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council. "It concerns us that people who are vulnerable may never see the information they need to see."

While water systems are free to enhance their reports in any useful way, each report must provide consumers with the following fundamental information about their drinking water:

  • the lake, river, aquifer, or other source of the drinking water;
  • a br /ief summary of the susceptibility to contamination of the local drinking water source, based on the source water assessments that states are completing over the next five years;
  • how to get a copy of the water system's complete source water assessment;
  • the level (or range of levels) of any contaminant found in local drinking water, as well as EPA's health-based standard (maximum contaminant level) for comparison;
  • the likely source of that contaminant in the local drinking water supply;
  • the potential health effects of any contaminant detected in violation of an EPA health standard, and an accounting of the system's actions to restore safe drinking water;
  • the water system's compliance with other drinking water-related rules;
  • an educational statement for vulnerable populations about avoiding Cryptosporidium;
  • educational information on nitrate, arsenic, or lead in areas where these contaminants are detected above 50% of EPA's standard;
  • phone numbers of additional sources of information, including the water system and EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791).

Water systems must also provide public notification to their customers upon discovering any violation of a contaminant standard. This annual report should not be the primary notification of potential health risks posed by drinking water, but will provide customers with a snapshot of their drinking water supply.


For what EPA says about bottled water:

For information about how bottled water is regulated:

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