Oro Valley's water future continues to look bright

Published on December 21, 2017

We have all read the headlines about Arizona's continued drought and the state's looming water crisis. In fact, the Arizona State Climate Office documents that Arizona is currently in its 21st year of a long-term drought. So, what does this mean for Oro Valley?

The State of Arizona has been preparing for long-term water shortages for decades. Investments by state and federal agencies have resulted in the creation of large-scale surface water reservoirs including the Central Arizona Project canal and recharge basins that allow for recharge and storage of CAP water. These projects have dramatically improved water resource availability and reliability for urban areas that, in the past, were solely dependent on the utilization of groundwater for their water resource needs. Infrastructure investments and code changes coupled with consumer conservation have resulted in securing Arizona's water future in urbanized areas for decades to come, even during extended periods of drought.

The Oro Valley Water Utility developed a strategic plan for water supply sustainability to comply with the regulatory requirements of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. This plan included a comprehensive water supply and demand analysis for Oro Valley, and created a framework for addressing the Town's future water supply needs. The Town demonstrated to the state department that it had a 100-year water supply when considering current and committed demands, as well as future growth projections.

As a result, the Town of Oro Valley has been designated by ADWR as having an Assured and Adequate Water Supply for the Water Utility's entire service area for a period of 100 years. This designation is very important to Oro Valley. It means that the town has demonstrated successful long-term water supply planning, adequate preservation of groundwater resources and the use of renewable water supplies.

Reclaimed water deliveries began in 2005, and CAP water deliveries began in 2012. By 2016, renewable water supplies were used to meet 42 percent of the town's water supply needs. The use of renewable water supplies ended an era when the town was solely reliant on groundwater to meet its water supply needs.

When it comes to the responsible management and long-term supply of water resources, the Town of Oro Valley's water future looks bright. The Oro Valley Water Utility continues to manage its water resources for the future by maintaining a diverse water resource portfolio that includes meeting the potable water needs through the responsible utilization of groundwater while maximizing the use of renewable water resources such as CAP water. The town also delivers reclaimed water for the irrigation of golf courses and athletic fields. Additionally, the Water Utility has been storing all of its unused CAP water allocation in nearby underground recharge facilities. This stored water can be recovered at a later date to offset shortages that may occur in the future.

The town's diligence in securing, managing and conserving its water resources has been so successful that the Water Utility delivers less total water resources per year than it did over a decade ago. This leaves enough resource availability to support the town's future growth, even if the current CAP drought contingency plans go into effect. The Water Utility plans to support the town's future growth with additional CAP water deliveries. There are projects currently in design along with other projects that are in planning phases, all of which are in support of and will be paid for by future growth.

Whatever the region's water supply challenges may be, the Town of Oro Valley is well positioned to successfully meet those challenges to ensure and sustain the town's quality of life, public health and economic vitality now and in the future.

By Peter A. Abraham, P.E., Oro Valley Water Utility director - Explorer Newspaper, 12/21/17

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