Tucson would now be in a water alert – the lowest, or least critical level of drought – under a proposed plan expected to go to the City Council for a vote in coming months, a Tucson Water spokesman said.
Under the plan, the city manager could declare a water alert if there is a sustained drought in the Colorado River watershed and a drought declared in the Tucson region by the state Department of Water Resources.
Both the Colorado watershed and Tucson region are in drought, said Mitch Basefsky.
Through October, the city is taking comments on the plan, which by state law must be submitted to the Department of Water Resources by Jan. 1. Comments will be used to develop a final version of the plan, which will likely go to the City Council in late November or early December, according to a Tucson Water news release.
Tucson’s status under the plan would be determined by drought or shortage on the Colorado River, state drought declarations, well levels and Tucson Water’s demand versus production capacity.
The plan would include four levels of drought, the lower two declared by the city manager and the upper two by the mayor and City Council.
Many of the measures are already in the city’s 1995 Emergency Water Conservation Ordinance, which has never been implemented.
A water alert would have no impact on residents beyond Tucson Water continuing to urge conservation, but it would require city departments to audit water use in search of ways to cut back. Many departments have completed such audits, and others are in the process, Basefsky said.
Stepping the declaration up to the next level – water warning – would require one of two things: a Colorado River shortage declared by the U.S. Department of the Interior or changes in local indicators, which include reservoir levels, demand and production capacity. Neither has happened, Basefsky said.
The third level of drought under the plan – water emergency – would require that homes be fitted with water-conserving fixtures before resale and a drought surcharge to be determined later. In later stages of drought, the plan would ban inefficient water-cooled systems in industry.
A water crisis – the top level of drought – would lead to a landscape watering schedule or ban, bans on water-based outdoor toys, filling of new swimming pools and spas and outdoor misters at businesses.
Reclaimed-water users, such as golf courses, would be subject to restrictions but could apply for exemptions after completing water-use audits and upgrading irrigation systems.
ON THE WEB
City of Tucson drought plan: www.ci.tucson.az.us/water/drought-intro.htm