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Desert water

Since we started looking for property here, I have heard from many people about water issues in the desert. No question, it's a desert and water is precious. Tucson and much of Arizona draw water from a giant underground aquifer which is not naturally refilling nearly as fast as it is being drawn down.

In addition to water use restrictions and financial incentives to conserve, the solution has been to negotiate a share of the overburdened Colorado River. This water is being put in giant basins in the Avra Valley and simply left to soak into the ground, thus recharging the underground aquifer. Tucson has an allocation of 44 billion gallons per year, although it doesn't presently have the ability to make use of it all right now.

That's a good start, but not enough forever. Still, it doesn't appear that Tucson will run short of water anytime in the next few years, despite the many gloomy predictions I have heard.

I also hear a lot of other stories from people about how awful it is here. Come to think of it, I hear those stories everywhere that life is good. My theory is that people come up with such tales to discourage outsiders from moving in. In addition to reports of imminent drought, I've heard about "deadly" scorpions on the ceiling, scorching heat, black widow spiders, rattlesnakes, and killer bees. As with all such stories, there is a grain of truth to each, just enough to be slightly believable.

We've been looking for rattlesnakes on all our hikes in Saguaro National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus, etc. So far no luck. Most people never seen one. Bert, Janie, and I were hiking in Organ Pipe a few weeks ago in a spot that is reputed to have more rattlers than any other place in the USA (200 per square mile), but we couldn't find any.

The scorpions are generally not deadly, except for the bark scorpion which can be deadly in some circumstances. But worrying about it is pointless: hardly anyone has ever been killed by one. Same for the black widow spider.

The water issue is of more interest to us. Our travels by Airstream have changed how we view water. With only a 39-gallon supply that often has to last for several days when we are boondocking, it's important to know how to conserve. Tucson Water says the average usage per person is 177 gallons per day. (That includes water used for all purposes, including irrigation.) In the Airstream, our average use per person can be as low as 3.5 gallons per day when boondocking, and probably runs about 8 gallons per day when we have full hookups.

I've noticed that when we're borrowing a shower in someone's house, I am now compelled to shut off the water between soapings, just as I routinely do in the Airstream. I notice little water-wasting moments: the neighbor sloshing his car with gallons of water in the driveway, or a pool that is left uncovered to evaporate all day in a dry climate. The other day Eleanor spotted someone cleaning the sidewalk with a hose and was outraged. Even a regular flush toilet seems like an extravagance now.

So in our house we want to incorporate some RV economization principles for water (and power, but I'll get to that another day). When we move in, I expect we'll make several changes to cut our water usage, including water-saving appliances, a drip irrigation system, and even a rainwater harvesting system with rain barrels for watering the plants. It should be interesting and fun to try to apply what we've learned to our stationary house.


Yup, I agree that people who live in attractive places tend to overstate the "dangers" in part to reduce the chances of overcrowding in their little piece of heaven. I can't tell you the number of times that earthquakes have been mentioned as a reason for not moving to California.

While searching for a place to relocate in retirement (extended vacation), I developed a rationale that took the Arizona summer heat out of the equation. The Airstream is the answer. After all, there are many attractive places to visit during the summer months. The various county, state, and national parks have the mountains, lakes, and other attractions that make travel so pleasurable. All that can be accessed best during the summer.

By contrast, there are only a few places in the lower-48 that are warm and sunny in the winter. Southern Florida, perhaps parts of South Texas, Arizona at elevations of Tucson and below, Southern California and the desert around Palm Springs. Unfortunately, for the kind to trailer camping that we like, there are few places in those warmer climes that are attractive like the parks. What we have instead are the chock-a-block RV parks that cater to a snowbird population. That may appeal to people who have a permanent home in the colder North, but not to those who want to take in all the scenic beauty that our great country offers.

Thus, permanent winter home in Arizona and sumertime travel to other places when the temperature gets too great has become our strategy for the ideal "extended vacation" location decision.

Looking forward to being just up the road from you by this time next year.

hurrah...thanks for the water conservation reminder...we remain conscious of precious water here in Florida...and conserve like we do when we are out in the Airstream using the water of other locations...

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