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City delays cuts by Tucson Water

Citizen Staff Writer



The City Council voted Tuesday to delay approving Tucson Water’s financial strategy until the city tries to sell Central Arizona Project water to nearby towns.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, Tucson Water expects a $15.4 million shortfall, due mostly to customers using less water.

The department proposes to make up about $5.4 million by buying about one-third less CAP water than the city is allocated, despite plans to take the full amount for the first time this year.

The push to take the full allocation was motivated by an impending Colorado River water shortage declaration, which would likely mean cuts to water distributions based on use, not just the allocation of the water.

If Tucson demonstrated that it was using all its water, even by pumping it into underground aquifers, less water would likely be taken.

But two years of good snow pack in the Rocky Mountains have pushed back predictions of a shortage to about 2014, making the use of all the water less urgent, Chris Avery, interim deputy water director, said Tuesday.

Under the latest proposal, the city would take two-thirds of its allocation this fiscal year and next, and buy an amount equal to its predicted use in 2011. The soonest Tucson would buy all of its allocation would be 2012, Avery said.

“It’s not a plan that we’d like to present you with,” Avery told the council. “It’s one that we think is feasible now. . . . We don’t expect demand to meet the CAP allocation for a few years.”

Tucson Water would still put more water into the ground each year than it would take out, Avery said.

The sale of the 50,000 acre-feet officials ordered in October and would like to unload, however, may not be easy.

CAP rules dictate who gets first dibs on the water, and municipalities, speculators and mines get the option of buying before the Arizona Water Bank does, Tucson Water spokesman Mitch Basefsky said.

Officials hope the water bank would receive at least a portion of the water because the bank would then pay the city up to $750,000 to store the water in its aquifer.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council approved two amendments to the land use code. The changes require developers to agree to eradicate buffel grass, an invasive plant, and plant one tree for every four parking spaces, beginning June 2010. The current parking space to tree ratio is 10 to 1.

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