US Water Prize for Outstanding Public Sector Organization: Tucson Water
Twenty years ago, Tucson was the largest American city solely reliant on pumping groundwater for its water needs. Tucson Water has since diversified its water portfolio through One Water projects, and in the past two years, they have undertaken three key projects that advance the goal of effectively managing Tucson’s multiple water resources.
The first of these projects is the Santa Cruz River Heritage Project, which was launched in June 2019. The Heritage Project reintroduced flowing water to the Santa Cruz riverbed after a 100-year absence. Tucson Water uses treated wastewater, also known as reclaimed water, to restore the river flow and recharge the local aquifer. The restored river is not only vital to the environment, but also Tucson’s history, culture, and identity.
The second project is the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Fund. Tucson Water conducted public meetings, workshops, and surveys to receive input for a green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) fee and program from residents. With widespread public support, the City Council approved the GSI fee, creating a $3 million annual revenue stream for the construction and maintenance of GSI features. It is the nation’s first GSI program funded voluntarily by water customers.
The third project is the South Houghton Area Recharge Project (SHARP). This 40-acre recharge and recycle project is comprised of three recharge basins receiving recycled water from the Houghton Reclaimed Reservoir. This water soaks into an area of the aquifer that has declined in the past years. SHARP also provides opportunities for community recreation and interaction. It is the first recharge project in Tucson open to the public, and it provides green space for walking, running, and biking.
Through these projects, Tucson Water is ensuring the city is an independent sustainable desert community, now and fifty years in the future.
The US Water Alliance is pleased to award Tucson Water with the US Water Prize for Outstanding Public Sector Organization in recognition for their work advancing sustainable, integrated, and inclusive solutions to water challenges.