News Feature | June 28, 2018

Recycled Water To Resurrect Languishing River

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Recycled water may bring new life to a languishing river in the Southwest.

“The Santa Cruz River was once the lifeblood of Tucson, AZ. Due to heavy development and groundwater overdraft, it hasn’t seen year-round flow in 70 years. The city plans to revive the storied desert river with recycled effluent,” News Deeply reported.

“The river once meandered year-round through this Sonoran Desert town. But it has been reduced to a dusty flood-control channel,” the report said.

For the first time in 70 years, the river could flow through the center of Tucson’s metro area again. The Santa Cruz River Heritage Project will aim to restore the original aquatic habitat within the river.

Maya Teyechea, a hydrologist with Tucson Water, the city’s water utility, explained the effort to News Deeply.

“We’re using it as ornamental. We want it to attract people,” she said. “We’re not necessarily trying to get people to buy into drinking it at this point.”

At the same time, Tucson Water has also said that “the project will help them to have more space to recharge more water,” Tucson News Now reported.

Permitting from Arizona has been required for the project. Meanwhile, most of the infrastructure needed to make the project possible is already in the ground.

“Pipes carrying recycled wastewater – currently used for landscape irrigation – already flow near the river at strategic points. The city merely has to tap those pipes and build a small treatment facility near the river to extract chlorine from the wastewater, which could be harmful to aquatic life,” News Deeply reported.

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Individual Permit Manager Andy Koester weighed in on the effort to Tucson News Now.

"People are protected because the permit requires them to do routine monitoring to make sure that the public health and the environment is protected,” Koester said.