Conserving Water with Water Wise

Protect and Enhance the Nation's Natural Resource Base and Environment
Research Year: 
2003
Issue: 

The Sierra Vista Subwatershed, located in the southeast corner of Arizona, includes seven municipalities and few unincorporated areas with a combined population of approximately 68,000 residents. The subwatershed residents rely on an aquifer for all their water needs. The subwatershed is drained by the San Pedro River, recognized as the first national riparian area by US Congress in 1988 because of its rich diversity of plant and animal species. This riparian area is dependent on the height of the aquifer. Unfortunately, like many areas in the Southwest, the aquifer is being overdrawn by the increasing human population of the subwatershed. This overdraft threatens the health of the riparian area.

Description of Action: 

Responding to the need for conservation, the Cochise County Cooperative Extension began an effort in 1994 in coordination with the City of Sierra Vista, and local water companies and utilities that eventually resulted in the development of Water Wise. Supported by private and public sponsors, this community education program is designed to help residents of Cochise County, with an emphasis on those living in the Sierra Vista Subwatershed, reduce water use and implement good natural resources management practices on their land an/or in their businesses.

Water Wise provides free information through bulletins, information racks, a hot-line telephone service, speakers, community presentations, workshops, educational events and on-site water consultations. Water Wise Schools, Water Wise/Energy Smart and the Plant Sciences Center are other programs administered by Water Wise. They emphasize water conservation for students, for the nearby military base Fort. Huachuca residents, and promote low water use native vegetation in landscapes, respectively. Auditors perform residential, industrial, commercial and institutional landscape audits.

Impact: 

During 2003 Water Wise facilitators reached 1,402 people directly through workshops, classes, presentations, displays, tours and other activities. Indirect reach included 48,030 people. During Water Awareness Month, the potential audience reached was 40,000. Indirect contacts through public service announcements was 39,500.

Testimonials:

"I recently had a Water Wise audit conducted at my home. I was provided new, useful information pertaining to our local environment. The comments and suggestions made regarding water use and rainwater harvesting will enable us to reduce our water use." –area resident

"I have already made adjustments to caring for my new tree. And I am changing some water practices. The Water Wise program really is helpful." –participant

"We have already started to work on some of your suggestions and we especially want to thank you for saving our big native evergreen tree." –Sierra Vista homeowner

Quantifying results of this educational program has been difficult due to many factors: a large scale "soft" educational approach, lack of water use data as water companies are private and data is confidential, and outreach methods that are not repetitive for the same people. Per capita water deliveries by one of the largest private water suppliers has decreased since the inception of the Water Wise program, but as much as the program would like to take credit for the decrease, this cannot be documented.

One of the goals of the program is to make water conservation a community value. At the inception of the program, water conservation was not thought to be important. Water Wise did not conduct a survey of program awareness to establish base data. Today, water conservation is a community value. There are now four water conservation programs in Water Wise's target area, not overlapping, but each with its own focus area. Water Wise led the pack and has been recognized by a consortium of 21 federal, state, county, city and stakeholder organizations - called the Upper San Pedro Partnership- as the educational outreach program for community Water Conservation.

This year, in an attempt to quantify water saved from the program, a Water Wise study has been launched. A "mini" Water Wise program has been duplicated in a controlled environment where results such as behavior change resulting in water savings, effectiveness of outreach methods, and quantification of water savings can be documented. The results of this study are expected by January 2005.

Water Wise has recently hired an industrial, commercial and institutional auditor and has obtained water use data from county governmental buildings, school district buildings and some other ICI sector buildings. With this data, the Water Wise program can chart water use trends, identify abnormal spikes in use and assist the auditee with conservation methods. Water Wise will be able to track measurable conservation results with this program.

Funding Agencies: 

Cochise County, the City of Sierra Vista, Fort Huachuca, the Upper San Pedro Partnership, Bella Vista Water Company, Arizona Water Company, Pueblo del Sol Water Company, Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative, Southeast Arizona Association of Realtors

Conact Name: 
Cado Daily
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

Cochise County Cooperative Extension, Sierra Vista Office

The University of Arizona

1140 N. Colombo

Sierra Vista, AZ 85635-2390

(520) 458-8278, ext. 2139 office (520) 626-2492 fax