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Hydrogeologic uncertainties and policy implications: The Water Consumer Protection Act of Tucson, Arizona, USA

Wilson, L. G., Matlock, W. G., Jacobs, K. L.
Hydrogeology journal 1998 v.6 no.1 pp. 3-14
alluvium, consumer protection, consumers (people), groundwater, groundwater extraction, issues and policy, permeability, politics, river water, stream channels, uncertainty, water quality, water supply, Arizona, Colorado River
The 1995 Water Consumer Protection Act of Tucson, Arizona, USA (hereafter known as the Act) was passed following complaints from Tucson Water customers receiving treated Central Arizona Project (CAP) water. Consequences of the Act demonstrate the uncertainties and difficulties that arise when the public is asked to vote on a highly technical issue. The recharge requirements of the Act neglect hydrogeological uncertainties because of confusion between "infiltration" and "recharge." Thus, the Act implies that infiltration in stream channels along the Central Wellfield will promote recharge in the Central Wellfield. In fact, permeability differences between channel alluvium and underlying basin-fill deposits may lead to subjacent outflow. Additionally, even if recharge of Colorado River water occurs in the Central Wellfield, groundwater will become gradually salinized. The Act's restrictions on the use of CAP water affect the four regulatory mechanisms in Arizona's 1980 Groundwater Code as they relate to the Tucson Active Management Area: (a) supply augmentation; (b) requirements for groundwater withdrawals and permitting; (c) Management Plan requirements, particularly mandatory conservation and water-quality issues; and (d) the requirement that all new subdivisions use renewable water supplies in lieu of groundwater. Political fallout includes disruption of normal governmental activities because of the demands in implementing the Act.