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Critical water tanks on Mount Lemmon are full, thanks to monsoon

Critical water tanks on Mount Lemmon are full, thanks to monsoon

Drenching monsoon rains earlier this summer not only brought intense greenery and dazzling wildflowers to the Catalina Mountains. They also filled critical water-storage tanks to full capacity.

The abundance of moisture is a welcome change from limited supplies in drought years, and it means mountain residents, visitors and firefighters won’t face water shortages for now.

“The water tanks on the mountain are all full and the springs are flowing full-tilt,” said Michael Stanley, manager of the Mount Lemmon Water District. “In all, we have 2 million gallons of water” stored in several large tanks.

The tanks include two in Upper Sabino Canyon, near the mountain village of Summerhaven, one in Carter Canyon and one at Loma Linda, Stanley said.

“One of the tanks in Upper Sabino Canyon has 800,000 gallons and one has 200,000” with the additional 1 million gallons in other tanks.

The key to all that fluid wealth: a veritable deluge in July and early August.

“We had about 16 inches of rain just in July,” Stanley said. Monsoon rainfall in the Catalina Mountains varies widely from year to year, but 16 inches in a month could be near a record.

“We haven’t had much rain the last week or so,” Stanley said. “But I think we’re in good shape.”


“With all that rain, everything is so lush” in the Catalinas, Stanley said. “The trees are just going crazy up there.”

A recent hike in Upper Sabino Canyon and on the Aspen Draw Trail above the canyon revealed a mountain landscape that might be mistaken for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Evergreens, aspens and maples displayed the many shades of green.

Wildflowers, including golden columbines, brightened glades with expansive clumps of blooms.

Ferns grew waist-high in some meadows, and large mushrooms flourished — especially near fallen, decaying trees.

A small stream gurgled down the canyon, plunging here and there in tiny waterfalls.

And there could be more monsoon moisture to come. The monsoon season continues through Sept. 30, as defined by the National Weather Service.

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

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