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30+ historic photos of the Santa Cruz River through Tucson
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30+ historic photos of the Santa Cruz River through Tucson

The Santa Cruz River was the lifeblood of Tucson for early Native Americans, the Spanish Conquistadores and early American settlers. It languished for years and became dry most of the year as the water table dropped.

It also became a neglected trench and trash heap. City leaders envisioned something better. By the early 1970s, the Army Corps of Engineers was studying the feasibility of channeling the river and creating a park. In 1977, work began.

It is now an integral part of The Loop bicycle and pedestrian trails.

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The river actually benefits from dry weather, which causes algae to bloom in parts of it. That blocks infiltration of the city's reclaimed water into the aquifer, letting it flow farther downriver even though Tucson Water isn't releasing any more water than before.

For Star subscribers: "Because of the dire conditions in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, any degree of reductions may be possible" in CAP deliveries, Tucson Water Director John Kmiec says. At some point, the cuts could be large enough that the city will have to pump more native groundwater than it has in years. 

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