Hopes that the start of monsoon rains might rescue the drought-stricken main pond at Agua Caliente Park have been dashed — at least for now.
The pond has withered to a record low level, prompting Pima County officials to double the pumping of well water into it to keep it from disappearing altogether.
“Without a doubt, the pond is the lowest it’s ever been” since the county acquired the site in the mid-1980s, said Kerry Baldwin, Natural Resources Division manager for the county. “But we hope to make some significant changes to raise the water level in the pond.”
CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM
A prolonged drought — along with other possible factors including groundwater pumping — have caused the failure of a hot water spring that once fed the 3.5-acre pond and smaller ponds at the park northeast of Tucson.
Efforts to keep the pond partially filled by pumping well water into it brought but moderate success. Only about 40 percent of the pond bottom was covered with water in April, and it’s now vastly more diminished — with only a small patch of water showing at one end of the basin and the remainder consisting of mud flats.
That’s been disappointing to the many people who visit the park for family outings, picnics, casual strolls and wildlife watching at what once was viewed as a natural oasis in the desert.
PLANS TO SAVE THE POND
Immediate efforts will involve increased pumping of well water into the pond.
After a well pump went down about two weeks ago, workers installed a new pump system, Baldwin said.
“The new pump system will give us a higher volume of water,” he said. “We’re transferring some existing water rights that weren’t being used to bring more water into Agua Caliente. With the new pump, we’re now able to put in about double the amount of water — right around 70,000 gallons a day.
“But it will still be slow to fill because there is a lot of exposed land that needs to be resaturated.”
Baldwin said recovery efforts also will entail reducing the size of the pond from 3.5 acres to 2 or 2.5 acres. — thereby requiring less water to keep it full.