Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Conserve Tucson's precious water by using it twice

A Tucson friend's outside shower waters the plants in their yard. 

You might have read in the news about the negotiations on the drought contingency plan. When they originally divided the water between the various states and Mexico, they divvied out more water than we have  - and didn't take into account Climate Change or our perpetual development. To exacerbate the problem,  many farmers are still planting thirsty plants and the Rosemont Mine threatens to deplete Tucson's ground water. We might wanna rethink the Four Cs of Arizona's Economy: Copper, climate, cotton & citrus.

The city of Tucson has already reduced residential water usage during the past two decades. In 2010, our residential water usage rates were 94 gallons per capita per day. By 2015, Tucson’s water usage was down to 80 GPCD. But we can do better than that. 

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I advocate for rainwater harvesting to make Tucson water secure. If everyone does rainwater harvesting, there is enough water for every person in Tucson. Unfortunately, less than 1% of us are doing any rainwater harvesting. And our outdoor water use still accounts for 30% of residential water use in the Tucson area.

Many of us are already conserving water by turning off the tap while brushing our teeth or while soaping our hands or scrubbing our hair in the shower.  Now that we've mastered that habit, the next step is to use our residential water twice when we can. 

State Senator Andrea Dalessandro, who sits on the Natural Resources and Energy committee, mentioned at Environmental Day at the Capitol that she puts a bucket in the shower to catch the water while it warms up. Way to walk the talk! Some friends of ours have installed lovely outdoor  showers that water their backyard landscaping. (I wouldn't recommend this in the front yard!) 

Some of you might remember my blog, "Rebel Dishwater Gardener." Here I am using our clean rinse water in our kitchen garden. 

I dump the dirty dish water in our compost pile to keep it moist.

Especially precious is the coffee ground water that my Tombstone Rosebush (my one sentimental extravagance) and tomatoes plants love. I've been experimenting with putting the grounds around the trunk of our Tombstone Rose and our moringa to deter the leaf cutter ants from stripping them of all their leaves. (I think it might cover their pheromone trail. Still testing this theory... So far it appears to be working! The ants marched by one moringa to gather seeds from a dead weed in the basin...) 

I like to use the veggie water from the steamer pan to nourish the soil by the tomato or curry plants.

We were blessed to have an outdoor washing machine. Dan easily rigged up a greywater system to irrigate sturdy, low water use heritage fig and pomegranate trees. (Our native trees are doing fine without any city water.) 

Another easy way to use water twice is to let your yellow mellow by sharing one flush with your partner in the morning.  But Dan's big dream is to have a composting toilet like the one at Watershed Management Group. (I haven't encouraged this because I would never see my husband.) 

It's not always easy. But using water a second time is a great way to learn not to take our water for granted.

As our politicians bicker over who is entitled to our allotment of CAP water, it is becoming clear that it isn't a sustainable source. We need to transition to a more local system and start conserving water like we live in the desert. Because we do. 

For Information on the social injustices caused by CAP read:

Hopis: Protectors of Earth and Water


  1. You are such an inspiration! Thank you!

  2. Governor Ducey is planning to invest billions on a desalination system to make Arizona more water secure. That water would have to be transported 2,969 miles from the Pacific ocean to Tucson. What's the environmental impact of that? The environmental justice issues? When they built CAP, they purposely created a "sacrifice zone" and tried to push the Hopi and Navajo off their land by destroying their food supply. Then Peabody used up their water to transport the coal that was used to power CAP pumps. Fifty percent of Navajo still don't have running water!

    Are there any other solutions? Can we at least try conserving water first?