Every Little Drop Makes a Big Difference
City of Sierra Vista
- 5 billion gallons of water recharged and returned to aquifer since 2002
- $300,000 in rebates to homeowners for toilet replacements, saving 24 million gallons of water a year
- Recent upgrade will save an additional 130 million gallons per year
- Detention basins recoup 98 million gallons annually
Source: “Sierra Vista & Fort Huachuca: Our Community, Our Future,”; Sierra Vista Chamber of Commerce
- Established in 1877
- 27,000 direct and indirect jobs on the military base and in Sierra Vista
- Economic impact of $2.4 billion annually
Source: 2008 Report, Arizona Department of Commerce
Working together, Fort Huachuca, Sierra Vista and Tom Wood, an instructional specialist with the Cochise County Cooperative Extension Water Wise/Energy Smart program on Fort Huachuca, are helping save billions of gallons of water.
This U.S. Army military base and surrounding community is using less water per person, capturing storm runoff, treating waste water, even taking alfalfa farms out of production – and actually replenishing the underground aquifer.
Results are measured in billions – not millions – of gallons of water saved.
This miracle of modern conservation is tied to an endangered grass-like plant known as the Huachuca water umbel.
The economic impact of Fort Huachuca is nearly $2.4 billion a year, including roughly 27,000 direct and indirect jobs on the base and off.
Despite that, the Fort’s environmental impact on the water table and endangered species had been questioned whenever the topic of closing military bases arose.
“We decided to take that issue off the table,” said Tom Wood, a Water Wise specialist with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. The University and Fort Huachuca have partnered on water conservation projects for 15+ years.
Water use on the base was reduced by more than 60 percent – through water audits, low-flow toilets and showerheads, mandated desert landscaping, artificial turf installed on once grassy athletic fields and recharge basins built to recover waste water.
Yet officials calculated that about 80 percent of the water use attributed to the Fort is actually drawn off base in town – where many military, civilian employees and ancillary service providers like teachers, physicians and retailers live.
That led to collaborations with city and county governments, the Bureau of Land Management and the Nature Conservancy. Results include:
- The city built a water treatment facility that’s reclaimed more than 5 billion gallons for the aquifer since 2002. Detention basins recoup another 98 million gallons of storm runoff a year.
- Alfalfa farmers were pumping 1200 acre feet a year from the San Pedro River, impacting riparian areas critical to the endangered water umbel. The Nature Conservancy acquired many of those fields, retired the commercial water rights and turned the pumps off.