Monday, April 5, 2021

CAP Water Makes Oro Valley Water Sustainable... For Now

Is Oro Valley immune from the drought?
Many of us who live in Oro Valley take our drinking for granted. We turn on the tap. Water comes out. We know that the Western US is in the midst of a 20 year drought; but we’ve been told by the Town of Oro Valley that we have noting to worry about. Oro Valley has a sufficient supply of water for the next 100 years. 

One would think that Oro Valley residents are immune from the drought. But are we?
We see evidence of the drought around us
The result of the 20-year drought is around us. Prickly pear plants are withering. Desert flowering this spring is far less than we’ve seen in past years. Trees are late to bloom. Our desert plants are in trouble and there is nothing we can do.

Oro Valley’s drinking water supply is sustainable because of CAP
How Oro Valley gets its water and where we get it from matters. We’re not Seattle. We’re not Portland. We’re not Boston. We, unlike them, live in the desert. Even in a good rain year, Oro Valley gets no more than a foot of rain in total. In a bad year, like the one’s we are experiencing we get far less.

Our water supply is not naturally replenished by rain. If the town draws more water from the ground than gets back into the ground the the total supply decreases. 

Fortunately, Oro Valley also gets water from the Colorado River Project (CAP). It is Oro Valley’s only other source of potable water. CAP was 33% of the total drinking water produced in 2020.

Oro Valley uses the water it gets from CAP to both replenish its ground water and to provide for current consumption.  CAP has made the town’s drinking water supply sustainable.

Central Arizona Project (CAP) is a 336-mile long aqueduct system which distributes Arizona's Colorado River water allocation for the purpose of conserving groundwater. When you read articles that discuss the reduction in CAP water, this is the source to which they are referring. 

Town anticipates no curtailment of CAP water supply even in 20 year drought
There’s less and less water coming into the Colorado River Basin. Indeed, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, the group that manages CAP has started to restrict the amount of water States are allowed to draw. There is now a “Tier 0” shortage. The town anticipates that further restrictions will happen in 2022. Still, the town anticipates that this will not impact our water supply. Indeed, there is a fallback of previous water stored by the State that can be used. 

According to the town, the actions thay have taken “...combined with a diverse water resource portfolio reduces the chances of a water resource shortage in the event of CAP water delivery curtailments.”. Reducing risk is good. But the town has not eliminated the risk.

Town assumes residents will continue to conserve water... but will the town do likewise?
The town’s water plans assume that residents will “...reduce demands through an increased focus on the efficient use of water resources ... to preserve water supplies for future uses.”  The town does not “walk this talk.” As we have reported, they are reopening the Pusch Ridge Golf Course. That course will use enough drinking water to supply 400 single family homes for year. Add to this the potential approval of many apartments along Oracle Road. Apartments bring greater density to the area and with it, greater consumption of water.