National Geographic : 1993 Nov 30
agriculture and declining water levels in several major aquifers, like the Ogallala in the Mid west. * These trends have contributed to a sec ondary development-farmers selling their water rights to cities. Laws and regulations have recently been passed to protect streams and the life in them. This legal right to instream flow-the right of water to stay in its own bed-is designed to support fisheries, endangered species, recrea tion, or, in some cases, even beauty. Faced with such restrictions on new water supplies and increased costs, cities are turning to conservation, which is now considered one of the most economical ways of meeting increased demand. Even New York City and Seattle, both in notably wet parts of the conti nent, have become more aggressive lately in pushing conservation. But a model of what is to come is Tucson, Arizona. sternly. "He's overwatering!" I was shocked. Right next to a lawn, there was a small shine in the street. Twenty or thirty gallons had got away. "See how saturated this is," Verduzco said, poking at the soggy lawn. "A little area like this does not need that much water." Verduzco is a firm but cheerful man, kind to offenders but no soft touch. He is the Tucson water cop, and we had been out for several hours giving people warnings and tickets for water waste. At first it had been hard for me even to see where sprinklers had leaked onto the sidewalk or where someone had hosed down a drive way, but now those things were like blood on the pavement: the stain of crime. Tucson, faced with limited new supplies, has taken several steps to encourage conservation. Since 1989 it has required low-flow equipment and water-saving toilets in new construction; it sponsors educational programs; it runs a cam paign to get people to cut back on summer water use--and hires a water cop to enforce water-waste regulations that provide for fines up to a thousand dollars. All this action has paid off. Among major southwestern cities, Tucson has one of the low est per capita domestic water-use figures- 104 gallons per person per day. It has also produced *See "Wellspring of the High Plains," by Erla Zwin gle, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, March 1993. Liquid evidence U "They were watering their driveway and the sidewalk," says Tucson water cop Richard Verduzco, checking a misguided nozzle. Water wasters face fines as high as a thousand dollars in this desert city. Conservation campaigns, low-flow plumb ing ordinances, and high water rates have helped turn most Tucsonans into avid savers.