By Karen R. Smith, WC&P Executive Editor

My new year’s resolution is to don a cape and tights and become the super heroine of water injustices, beginning right here in Tucson. Regular readers will recall last year’s pipe leak at my house, resulting in penalties under the city’s catastrophic use regulations of upwards of $700 and my (uphill) fight for ‘forgiveness’ from the water department. But this is a desert, after all, in the midst of a decade-long drought. Tough times call for tough policies. Or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise to learn that the city opted to drain 357,000 gallons of drinking water a day from a 96-inch pipe into a desert wash. Manager Dave Modeer and his staff have apparently never heard of pumps or portable tanks. City officials said they had no choice but to let the drinking water run back into the aquifer. And they are going to do this every day for about a month: roughly four to five million gallons of potable water by the time they anticipated stopping (November 26 or thereabouts).

There is a Marx brothers quality to this entire adventure. It seems this particular pipeline delivers drinking water to the Clearwell Reservoir. Tucson needs to install connections that would enable them to bring some of that water to growing areas in the city’s southeast quadrant. The way to do that, apparently, is to drain the pipeline, do the work and then pray for snow up north and rain down here to replace what they’ve squandered.

This particular pipeline is owned by the federal government, which has worker safety rules that require, ‘the removal of hazardous energy from a pipeline during a construction project’ (as reported by the Arizona Daily Star). (I presume the feds also frown on construction workers being drowned).

Rather than pump the water elsewhere (portable tanks come immediately to mind) they are dumping it. Every day until it’s gone. A spokesmodel for the water department said the city’s trucks hold a maximum of 6,000 gallons. Unfortunately, they couldn’t figure out that using that truck repetitively (and perhaps borrowing a couple more from Phoenix’s water utilities) could have moved the water. What about calling all the businesses in town with a water truck and having them come and fill up for fee? Every construction site has a tank…

Local officials noted that the drinking water was going into a wash, “a riparian area” so it was not being wasted. If putting drinking water into the desert is not being wasted, why was I penalized when that happened at my house?

This is the same water utility that is holding taste tests at local malls to find out how hard the residents are willing to have their tap water become. Tucson’s tap water is a blend of local groundwater plus California Arizona Project (CAP) water and because of the drought and population growth, the city will need to add more CAP water to have a sufficient supply.

As we go to press, more residents are selecting soft water in these taste tests, which will be conducted until the end of July. The utility states that if residents opt for highly mineralized water (a nice euphemism for hard, don’t you think?) they will incur estimated additional personal costs of $4 per month “because of mineral build up on faucets”.

Nothing about that same mineral build up in their water heater…dishwasher…washing machine…toilet bowl and tank…swimming pool….hot tub…

I have checked, and there is no legislation mandating a public utility to include all the facts. More’s the pity for the citizens of Tucson, I guess.

Yet every cloud has a silver lining: this is a sorry state of affairs for residents, but an absolutely fantastic opportunity for water treatment businesses in this part of the world. Get busy! Call the local television stations and reach out to the newspapers. Show them your cutaway hot water heaters with and without a softener. Form alliances with appliance retailers so that each time they sell a dishwasher or washing machine, they hand the buyer your card or brochure as a way of keeping that new appliance problem free. Without the appliances you sell, the appliances they sell with fail long before their time.



Comments are closed.