Agua Caliente withers again

2013-10-30T00:00:00Z 2014-01-07T16:50:18Z Agua Caliente withers againDoug Kreutz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The drought-stricken main pond at Agua Caliente Park — briefly bolstered by early summer rains — has withered again in the wake of a fizzled monsoon followed by a rainless autumn.

Forty percent of the 3.5-acre pond northeast of Tucson is now a mud flat and weed patch.

And the water that remains is there mainly because Pima County, which manages the site, is pumping 45,000 gallons of well water into the pond every day.

“The water level is currently 33.25 inches down from capacity” — leaving the once oasis-like lagoon a little over half of its previous size, said Kerry Baldwin, Natural Resources Division manager for the county. “We got a small elevation bump during summer rains, but that didn’t last long.”

The withering of the palm-flanked pond — a popular recreation site for walkers, picnickers and bird-watchers — is a result of prolonged drought and the drying up of the hot spring that once kept the pond full. The name of the park, Agua Caliente, means “hot water” in Spanish.

To offset the shortage, “we are pumping about 17 hours a day at a level of about 45,000 gallons a day into the pond,” Baldwin said.

That’s not enough to refill the pond, but a permit from the Arizona Department of Water Resources limits pumping to no more than 55,000 gallons of well water daily.

SOLVING THE PROBLEM

Baldwin, citing the need to preserve the pond’s ecological and scenic values, said county officials have submitted a bond project request for consideration by the county Public Bond Advisory Committee.

The requested $1 million would allow for dredging of the pond, placement of a liner to reduce water loss, reshaping of the pond to reduce its size to 2.5 acres and removal of invasive plants that use lots of water.

“One anticipated outcome would be to be able to support the new pond at a full level, year round, for about one-third of the water we now use,” Baldwin said.

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

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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