Growing up in Arizona, from an early age, we learned about the water cycle and how it provides life. We learned about the various processes, but until recently I had no idea about the manpower and effort that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that you and I have the water we use on a daily basis. The water we use to wash our hands, for agriculture to grow the food we all buy at the supermarket, and perhaps most importantly for drinking and to sustain life. When the Undergraduate Biology Research Program (UBRP) Ambassadors hosted a water panel to hear from an elected official and two experts who work closely with water, it was an event I could not miss. During this hour and a half long panel, the three invited speakers spoke about different aspects of how water is managed both in Tucson and in Arizona.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild spoke about how the City of Tucson owns Tucson water, which ensures water delivery to across the entire city. He spoke about how the policy was set and executed through a council of 6 members that are informed by experts and that these policies are continually revamped to meet current needs and situations. During his time to speak, Mayor Rothschild emphasized that with current technology they can monitor the use of consumers in real time and if they detect a leak, they can contact the appropriate personnel to deal with it immediately. To me, that was eye opening to see the level of care and effort our political leaders here in Tucson put into minimizing water waste and an important fact to consider since we all live in the desert, where water becomes a precious resource.
The next speaker Dr. Sharon Megdal, the Director of the Water Resources Research Center, highlighted how well Arizona has prepared for water shortages and that by preparing ahead of time, countries around the world seek guidance for how to manage their water supplies for their populations into the future. She also described that here in Arizona there are statutory limits that will specify when there need to be cutbacks. It was humbling to hear about how widely respected across the world Arizona is in terms of its efforts aimed at water conservation and awe-inspiring that the world’s leading experts in hydrology are right here at the University of Arizona.
The final speaker was Mr. Tim Thomure, the Director of Tucson Water. He emphasized strategies for how Tucson was prepared for different situations of shortage whether long-term or short-term, and also highlighted how Arizona became drought resilient through diversifying water supply and emphasizing conservation. It was thought-provoking to hear that despite the fact that Tucson’s population has grown, as an entire city, we have decreased our water usage to levels back in 1985 when the city was much smaller.
Overall, I feel very fortunate to be a part of an organization such as the UBRP Ambassadors that hosts and creates public venues to have important panels such as this, that create opportunities to have important public conversations. All in all, it was an unforgettable night, not only for us at the U of A, but for the general public who attended our panel and left with more thought and consideration for the water we sometimes take for granted.