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Life pours back into the Santa Cruz but changes are ahead

Posted at 4:28 PM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 21:06:05-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Life has been pouring back into portions of the Santa Cruz river in Downtown Tucson over the last 8 months. But changes to the wash this summer may impact the scenery.

The Sonoran Institute”s Luke Cole says the desert was ready for the renewed flow. Hundreds of year’s of agriculture and ranching in what is now downtown Tucson helped dry up the once constant Santa Cruz River.

“There has been more than 40 species of dragon flies, small mammals, coyotes and other endemic species to our area have come through,” said Cole.

Now nearly 2,000 gallons of recycled water pumps in every minute. Cole says its good for the wildlife and for people riding by who like a little nature in the city. It also contribute to groundwater.

“We are able to store it in the aquifer for 20 to 40 years, whatever the number turns out to be, and use it as a water supply for our community,” said Tucson Water Spokesperson Fernando Molina.

Molina says the environmental benefits are great, but the primary goal of the project is to recharge groundwater for storage. He wants people to remember Flood Control will be dredging up 5 feet of soil this summer to deepen the channel.

“That means we will have to start over again with the riparian habitat and getting the wildlife attracted back in.”

Cole says the future work may change the scenery, but the desert will bounce back anytime water is added.

“There have been centuries of work done about when the water returns to a system or when a broken system is allowed to repair itself. What we see here is incredible.”

Molina says Tucson Water will be working with U of A researchers to protect the habitat and native wildlife as much as possible during the engineering work.