Monsoon boon: Agua Caliente pond on rise again

2014-08-21T16:00:00Z 2014-08-21T20:06:38Z Monsoon boon: Agua Caliente pond on rise againBy Doug Kreutz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The main pond at Agua Caliente Park, which had all but dried up due to drought earlier this summer, has begun a comeback toward its former wet splendor.

Reasons for the recovery: increased pumping of well water into the pond, heavy monsoon rainfall, and reduced evaporation because of moist, relatively cool monsoon weather.

The 3.5-acre pond is now roughly 60 percent covered with water, but it’s only inches deep in many areas, said Kerry Baldwin, manager of Pima County’s Natural Resources Division. The county manages the park northeast of Tucson. It’s popular with walkers, bird-watchers, picnickers and nature photographers.

Even the current limited coverage of water is a big change from mid-July, when the pond had dwindled to just a small patch of water at one end of the basin. The remainder consisted of mud flats and patches of weeds.

That low-water mark was the result of several years of drought and the failure of the hot-water spring that once fed the pond and several smaller ponds at the park.

FACTORS IN THE COMEBACK

A repaired well that is now operating “is capable of pumping almost twice as much water per minute as the last system we had in place — upwards of 100 gallons per minute,” Baldwin said. “Consequently, we do not have to pump for the extended periods — 10 to 15 hours per day — as we did with the old system.

“We are pumping about 30,000 gallons per day right now” into the pond, he said. “It varies by day and pond levels.”

Another factor in the gradual refilling of the pond: “They have had over 1.75 inches of rain at the park in the last several days,” Baldwin said. “That level of rain will be noticeably additive.”

He added that “moderated heat and more monsoon-like weather conditions have helped reduce evaporation and water stress on plants.”

Plans for preserving the pond include reducing its size so it would need less water and seeking additional water rights for the park.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@tucson.com or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz

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