New UA Water Report Examined Further

June 22, 1999

UA faculty members have world-class expertise in many areas, and University President Peter Likins hopes their knowledge can help local and state communities as they grapple with complex issues.

The first formal effort to do this began June 21 at a noon press conference in UA's Water Resources Research Center (WRRC). At that time, a 155-page report on local water issues, "Water in the Tucson Area: Seeking Sustainability," was made available to the public and the press. The report, which Likins commissioned, is the first product of a broad-based water sustainability study at the UA that is being coordinated by Victor Baker, department head in hydrology and water resources.

The study includes 11 research projects being conducted by researchers in several departments throughout the University. "Water in the Tucson Area: Seeking Sustainability," which was produced by the WRRC staff, is the first of these to be completed.

"With this report, we are testing the waters to see if the University can play a larger role in the community," Likins said. That role would involve providing factual, scientific data related to important issues facing Tucson, other Arizona communities, and the state.

Likins said he hoped the document would be received in the spirit it is intended — as part of the information needed to make the best decision possible about water use, not as an outline for what that decision should be. "It is not our place to make the political decision on what should be done about water," Likins said. "If we tried to do that, we would be out of line."

Water is a good place to start providing information to the community, he added. "We have true international expertise in this domain, expertise that is drawn on worldwide. But it has seemed more difficult to provide that expertise to the local community in the past."

"This report is not the answer that is going to tell the community what to do," Baker said. "There are not just two sides to the water question. There are many sides. But to make the choice on what we should do, we have to deal with the issues in this report."

Gary Woodard, associate director of WRRC and one of the report's authors, said the sustainability report is based on the premise that Tucsonans face hard choices for developing a policy for sustainable water use. The report includes several possible scenarios for balancing Tucson's water budget, each with its costs and risks.

"This report brings together and summarizes a lot of information," Woodard said. "It focuses on some hard issues. Water use is at the crisis stage in this community, but this crisis is happening out of sight and out of mind. This report shows that the crisis is very real and must be addressed."

The report asks some tough questions, such as:
• Who should switch to renewable supplies — residents, business, agriculture or
mining?
• How should Central Arizona Project water be used?
• Are we responsible for leaving future generations a safe and affordable water supply?
• What are the environmental costs — including subsidence, flooding and riparian habitat effects — of the various options?
• What do the various options cost and are we willing to pay?

In addition to Woodard, several other WRRC staff members worked on writing the report. They include Joe Gelt, Jim Henderson, Ken Seasholes and Barbara Tellman.

For more information on the report, to view an electronic copy, and to try your hand at balancing the Tucson area's water budget through an interactive web page, visit the WRRC web site at http://ag.arizona.edu/AZWATER/. WRRC provides water-related information to the public and members of the Arizona water community.