For more than 70 years, a stretch of the Santa Cruz River in Tucson has been a dry riverbed due to the natural flow being interrupted by groundwater pumping. On June 24, the river flowed once again. The Tucson Water Department released 2.8 million gallons of treated effluent, or reclaimed water, to restore the aquifer and the area along the river and its wildlife habitats as part of the Santa Cruz River Heritage Project. Additionally, the project has the goal of “complementing recreational, cultural and historical resources in the area.”
The Heritage Project uses existing infrastructure along with additional pipeline (980 feet) to transport water from the reclamation system to the river where it becomes groundwater and enters the aquifer, helping to restore resiliency to Tucson’s water supply. The section of river currently receiving the water is south of downtown. The plan initially called for 2.8 million gallons to be released each day; however, that number was adjusted when river flow exceeded the previously agreed upon location, flowing nearly 2.5 miles instead of 1.5.
Although the project has numerous beneficial impacts, there is a level of concern about increased flood risks, especially during monsoon season. If the riverbed develops sediment and has a lot of vegetation floodwaters could overflow the river’s banks and threaten the city.
Tim Thomure, Tucson Water director, said that the city would consider similar projects along the river if this endeavor proves to be sustainable and continues to be embraced by the public. Thomure stated that “this project creates a lot of value for our community in an efficient and effective way.”
 O’Gara, Nick. “Initial Flow for Santa Cruz River Project Goes beyond Expectations.” AZPM, 2 July 2019, news.azpm.org/p/news-articles/2019/7/1/154215-initial-flow-for-santa-cruz-river-project-goes-beyond-expectations/?fbclid=IwAR1ZKnBclV4mf45uESyqWpd1YQ7o4K73AhOS0KG2RMqK8R3O7UFSEMb5vzY.
 Nunez-Valdez, Ricky. “Reclaimed Water to Flow in Santa Cruz River.” KGUN, 10 July 2019, www.kgun9.com/news/local-news/reclaimed-water-to-flow-in-santa-cruz-river.
Photo Credit: Amy Aletheia Cahill, Flickr