When it comes to supply and water resources, the Town of Oro Valley is in good shape. More efficient use of water in new homes, water conservation by our customers and management of our water resources have resulted in a very bright outlook on the town’s water future; however, there is still a need to build water infrastructure.
Oro Valley Water Utility has adequate water resources to supply our community now and in the future. What we need is to develop the infrastructure—pipes, pumps and reservoirs—to deliver our water supply. Our infrastructure is adequate for current needs, but new infrastructure will need to be built to meet the future demands of growth. To build that water infrastructure, we need to collect the appropriate fees from new development so that growth pays for itself.
New standards for low-flow devices
The good news is that a law in the National Energy Policy Act (1995) requires low-flow toilets that reduced a standard flush from 3.5 gallons to 1.6 gallons. It was initially a struggle to meet this requirement, but nowadays, it is the standard. Innovation and technology have brought us many low-flow devices, including faucets and shower heads. Shower heads are typically 2.5 gallons per minute now, which is considerably less than the previous 4-gallon-per-minute shower head. These low-flow devices are standard for all new construction and save homeowners and businesses water and money.
Using water responsibly
Even with new standards for low-flow devices, there is a need to take personal responsibility for water conservation. Why? The fact is, in addition to our indoor water use for our homes and businesses, we love our landscaping. In Oro Valley, we have very little grass in residential areas, and this reduces our demand; however, we have a warm climate most of the year so we want to grow our plants all year long. In addition, we have drip irrigation systems that require maintenance and seasonal adjustments. If we don’t maintain and adjust our drip irrigation systems, we end up with a higher water bill.
As water customers, there are things we can do to reduce, manage and improve personal usage. For example, I noticed my bill was higher than I expected last month. I checked for leaks and found a big leak in my front yard. I immediately shut my drip irrigation system off and then fixed the leak. Please check our website for our High Water Use Action Plan for tips on how you can locate potential leaks at your home.
How can the water utility help?
The Water Utility has a Water Utility Commission that makes recommendations on water conservation, water policy, and water rates. Additionally, the town has a water conservation specialist who can help by providing a free water audit, potentially saving you money and water. Please call 229-5024 for your free water audit.
During the drought years of 2006 and 2007, we asked you, our customers, to conserve, and you did. You also continued conserving because you realized you could save water and money and not impact your quality of life. From 2005 to 2010, our average residential monthly demand decreased from 10,000 gallons per month to 8,000 gallons per month, and it remains at that level even today.
Managing our water resources
The Oro Valley Water Utility is managing our water resources for the future by maintaining a diverse portfolio that includes groundwater from our wells and Central Arizona Project (CAP) water from the Colorado River. In addition, we have reclaimed water that is used for irrigation of golf courses and athletic fields. Over the years we have stored (or recharged) our CAP water locally in nearby aquifers to the south and west of Oro Valley. We will be able to use that water in the future. Our reclaimed water system has reduced the demands on our groundwater wells. We are also directly delivering our CAP through the Tucson Water system to the Oro Valley water distribution system. The development of our renewable water supply reduces groundwater demand and protects and preserves our aquifer.
(Editor’s Note: Philip Saletta is the Oro Valley water utility director.)