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Water Reuse to Offset Growth-Driven Water Scarcity in the Southwest

 From Supply Augmentation to Substitution

The Southwest’s rapid economic growth and expanding population, including internal migration within the U.S., are driving steep increases in the demand for water. In Arizona – the fastest growing and driest region – planning to meet the needs of rising municipal water demands poses significant challenges for water managers. Because a relatively constant percentage of indoor water usage is recovered, wastewater volumes grow roughly in proportion to population. Limited availability of additional water resources raises the need for, and attractiveness of, reclaiming wastewater and using the resulting effluent to meet a range of growth-driven demands for water.

Currently water reuse in Southern Arizona consists of:
• turf grass (e.g., golf courses)
• public landscaping (parks and campuses)
• environmental use (artificial wetlands, instream flows)
• power generation (cooling)
• aquifer replenishment (recharge and recovery)
• and irrigation (non-food crops)

The purpose of this study is to characterize and capitalize on the opportunities for water reuse to offset growth-driven water scarcity, and identify how growth-with-scarcity influences public attitudes towards different water reuse options.

Specific project goals:
• Partner with public utilities and water managers to inventory existing water reuse programs and document planning for reuse in Case Grande, Tucson, and Nogales, Arizona.
• Assess the variety of prevailing public attitudes on water reuse, especially as they relate to growth.
• Identify both institutional restrictions and enabling conditions for the adoption of supply-substituting water reuse practices.
• Improve understanding of the expected impact of different levels of water reuse adoption on future water demand and supply in the region.
• Provide guidance on incorporating public input into water reuse planning.


• Inventory existing reuse practices in Case Grande, Tucson, and Nogales, Arizona.
• Assess public perceptions on a full spectrum of water reuse options via community questionnaire.

Lead Agency: The University of Arizona (U.S.A.)

Christopher Scott (PI) – Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and Dept. of Geography and Regional Development

Anne Browning-Aiken (Co-PI) – Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and Dept. of Geography and Regional Development

Robert Varady (Co-PI) – Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy

Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy
The University of Arizona
803 East First Street
Tucson, Arizona 85719
phone: 520.626.4393
fax: 520.626.3664

City of Tucson & Pima County Water Infrastructure, Supply, and Planning Study

Pima County Regional Optimization Master Plan

WateReuse Foundation