Drinking Up the Desert

Lisa Song

Lisa Song

As one of the fastest-growing cities in America, Tucson, Arizona suffers from a classic case of urban sprawl. Fueled by the prevalence of lot splits and cheap suburban land, little was done to curb the city’s unsustainable growth until 1998, when the discovery of endangered pygmy owls in Tucson sparked the creation of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. The plan aims to preserve biodiversity in Tucson and surrounding Pima County by limiting development in biologically sensitive areas of the desert. In addition, Pima County is applying for a county-wide Section 10 Permit from US Fish & Wildlife Service. Water is another limiting factor in the city’s growth. When Tucson overdrafted its groundwater resources, the city bought additional water from the Colorado River, which was channeled to Tucson through the Central Arizona Project. Due to infrastructure problems, initial delivery of canal water in 1992 was shut down in 1994. Tucson Water, the city’s main water utility, later turned to recharge and recovery as a way to treat river water. Even with the addition of river water, Tucson, like other cities in the American Southwest, continues to search for new water sources for its ever-growing population.

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