As a desert community of just over 40,000 residents, the Town of Oro Valley is a community in control of its own water supply. Not having to depend on any other utility for the allocation of water means we are not subject to handouts and cutoffs. We have control over our growth and water resources.
However, the fact remains that we live in the desert. Water – regardless of who controls it – is our most precious resource. There is a great burden of responsibility for the management of this resource. As such, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce water usage through conservation as well as the use of reclaimed water.
Currently, more than 700 million gallons (2200 acre-feet) of reclaimed water is delivered to Oro Valley golf courses each year. This is “renewable” water that previously would have been potable groundwater pumped from our aquifer. For those of us who aren’t water experts, an acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons. While water reclamation projects have significantly reduced aquifer pumping, we are still pumping out more water than is “naturally” replaced or recharged.
Oro Valley has an annual allocation of 10,305 acre-feet of Central Arizona Project (CAP) water from the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD). The CAWCD is the governmental agency charged with delivering water from the Colorado River to Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties. While this allocation assures us of water, it currently is not “wet” water.
To date, the Town of Oro Valley has been building up and storing “credits” in lieu of actual water from CAP. A new intergovernmental agreement with the City of Tucson and approved by the Oro Valley Town Council on July 6 will turn our “credits” to actual “wet” water.
For the first time as a community, the Town of Oro Valley will receive actual CAP water. The initial stage of the agreement will allot just over 1500 acre-feet of water per year. That’s 1,500 acre-feet that we won’t be draining from our aquifer. When combined with the town’s usage of reclaimed water, we are reducing the strain on our aquifer and inching closer to pumping out only as much water as can be naturally recharged.
Beginning in January 2012, Oro Valley Water Utility will begin delivering CAP water mixed with water from our aquifer to the residents and businesses within our water service area. How we “recharge” and deliver the actual allocation to us through the Tucson Water system infrastructure is a great engineering story for another time.
The Oro Valley Water Utility is a self-sustaining enterprise service that must generate enough revenue to cover all expenses. Although Tucson Water will charge us for the new CAP service, the net effect means there will be no increase in water costs for our customers for the next fiscal year, nor will the town be taking on any additional debt as a result of this agreement.
As Oro Valley experiences growth, this philosophy of financial stewardship means we already have the necessary infrastructure in place to ensure new water customers will not be a burden on existing customers. Costs are recovered through impact fees charged to developers of new property. In short, growth pays for itself.
“Wet” water has always been in the plan for Oro Valley, but we now have the actual infrastructure to deliver this water to Oro Valley water customers. Our OV Water Utility continues to plan for the infrastructure to deliver more of our CAP allocation to us as our growth might require over time. While we enjoy the fruits of our own water and water system, we take the stewardship of this seriously, continuously seeking new methods of conservation as well as town codes that reflect our commitment to reducing water usage.
For a more detailed explanation of the upcoming delivery of CAP water to Oro Valley, please attend our Open House at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14, in the Town of Oro Valley Council Chambers.