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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Save some for the fishes

    Vanessa Valenzuelacolumnist
    Vanessa Valenzuela
    columnist

    Twelve thousand. This is not the number of times you will check Facebook.com or your e-mail while avoiding your homework this semester (let’s be honest: your numbers for that will be much higher). Nor is it the number of cans of Keystone that will be consumed by UA students.

    Twelve thousand is the approximate number of new residents moving to Arizona each month.

    I am sure figures for the first two categories listed above may seem more relevant to your daily life and would be more fun to hear about. But those 12,000 people per month may one day affect the lives of all Tucsonans, both old and new.

    Why? Because that monthly influx of people into Arizona means new residents not only in the greater Phoenix area, but also here in Tucson. And that influx of new residents has enticed homebuilders like Toll Brothers and Beazer Homes to come running. Last year alone, Tucson experienced a jump in new home permits of nearly 65 percent. To be exact, 11,762 housing permits were issued – most of them in Pima County.

    So what? As Tucson’s population quickly approaches the 1 million mark, it doesn’t only mean that there will be more cars sharing our dilapidated roads, but more people sharing what every person living in the desert needs: water.

    The houses continuing to fill up every piece of desert landscape that developers can get their hands on and subdivide are also hooking up to Tucson’s water systems – and we can only hope they will not one day stretch supplies too thin.

    Considering that the average American uses about 160 gallons of water a day, this will likely become a matter of “”when,”” not “”if.””

    Some developments that stretched out the far reaches of Phoenix are now experiencing water troubles and shortages on a few water systems, including Desert Hills Water Company, leaving customers outraged and with intermittent service – even during summer months.

    Though some cases like this can be blamed on mismanagement by private water companies, the situation becomes more complicated when multiple utilities are providing to a general region. Tucson Water is run by a municipality and has reason for serious concern as the provider for over 675,000 in a state experiencing its worst drought since the 1940s.

    This past summer, Tucson Water started its “”Beat the Peak”” campaign early to promote awareness of water conservation during the summer and discussed plans for water-usage restriction plans should the need for them arise.

    But a water company alone can’t educate consumers, build capacity and wave a magic wand to fill water supplies fast enough to meet the rampant growth and development that is being permitted here – seemingly with little foresight.

    Tucson is one of Arizona’s Active Management Areas, a designation established to provide long-term management and conservation of limited groundwater supplies.

    To do so, the AMAs administer state laws, explore ways of augmenting water supplies to meet future needs and routinely work to develop public policy in order to promote efficient use and an equitable allocation of available water supplies.

    Officials at the city and state levels must ensure that this management truly is occurring and that it is indeed active. Included in this must be attention to organized development, as Tucson is not nearly as large as Phoenix and still has the chance, while it is growing, to plan and develop in a way that is sustainable.

    In a city that has had a drought-management plan in place and ready each year since 1995, it seems absurd that development would continue to go on unchecked as it has.

    Rarely would I dare say that Tucson could learn a lesson from Phoenix, but in this case, Tucson can learn from Phoenix’s mistake of allowing sprawl to occur around the outskirts of the city in such great amounts. Growth for the sake of growth now may lead to serious repercussions in the future.

    It may be hard to see here around campus, but drive up on Craycroft Road past River Road or out from the city toward Mt. Lemmon and you will find the new houses or new lots just waiting to accommodate some of that monthly 12,000.

    To those new residents I say, “”Welcome to Tucson,”” and to all residents I say, “”Save some for the fishes.””

    Vanessa Valenzuela is a junior majoring in international studies and economics. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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