The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Protect and Enhance the Nationís Natural Resource Base and Environment
Conserving Water with Water Wise

Impact Nugget
Cochise County's Water Wise program focuses on community water conservation measures; audits of commercial facilities in 2005 resulted in a combined potential savings of more than 15.7 acre-feet of water (325, 851 gallons). A quantitative water conservation program held for 200 students yielded an average weekly savings of 57 gallons of water per student after the program.

The Sierra Vista Sub-watershed, located in the southeast corner of Arizona, includes seven municipalities and few unincorporated areas with a combined population of approximately 70,000 residents. Sub-watershed residents rely on an aquifer for all their water needs. The sub-watershed is drained by the San Pedro River, recognized as the first national riparian area by US Congress in 1988 because of its rich diversity of plant and animal species. This riparian area is dependent on the height of the aquifer. Unfortunately, like many areas in the Southwest, the aquifer is being overdrawn by the increasing human population of the sub-watershed. This overdraft threatens the health of the riparian area. Additionally, other Cochise County communities are reliant on groundwater and are experiencing increasing demands on limited water supplies.

What has been done?
Responding to the need for conservation in the Sierra Vista Sub-watershed, Cochise County Cooperative Extension began an effort in 1994 in coordination with the City of Sierra Vista, local water companies and utilities that eventually resulted in the development of Water Wise. Supported by private and public sponsors, this community education program now reaches out to all Cochise County residents helping them reduce water use and implement good natural resources management practices on their land and/or in their businesses. One of the goals of the program is to make water conservation a community value.

Water Wise provides free information through bulletins, information racks, a hot-line telephone service, speakers, community presentations, workshops, educational events and on-site water consultations. Water Wise Youth, Energy Smart program (WWES), and the Plant Sciences Center are other programs administered by Water Wise. They emphasize water conservation for students, for residents of the nearby military base Fort Huachuca, and promote low water use native vegetation in landscapes, respectively. Auditors perform residential, industrial, commercial and institutional property audits. With this data, the Water Wise program can chart water use trends, identify abnormal spikes in use and assist the auditee with conservation methods.

Of the four entities working with water conservation within the Sierra Vista Sub-watershed, Water Wise is the only organization whose primary focus is educational. The three other entities: the Upper San Pedro Partnership, Cochise County Water Conservation Office, the city of Sierra Vistas Water Tight program, focus on policy and rebate programs. Water Wise assists with these efforts.

During 2005, Water Wise facilitators reached 2,604 residents, 3,380 students, and 4,287 military and civilian personnel directly through workshops, classes, presentations, displays, tours and other activities. Groups ranged in age from school children to adults. Direct and indirect contacts throughout the target area in the County totaled over 70,000 people. Residential audits reached 250 direct contacts and 108 indirect contacts. A survey taken of residential auditees who had a water history at their residence at the time of the audit, indicated that 85 percent thought that their water use was reduced as a result of the visit. For those who didn’t have a water history, 88 percent thought that their water use was less than it would have been as a result of the visit.

Over 400 attended the Water Wise Rainwater Harvesting and Xeriscape Tours. 1,208 people attended the 19 Water Wise presentations, classes and workshops. The Water Wise mailing list of 700 direct contacts, receive water conserving announcements and quarterly newsletters. The WWES program’s outreach activities included 52 public outreach/education events with 2,195 direct and 2,092 indirect contacts.

Water Wise was responsible for 81 media outreach activities in 2005 that featured the program: 70 articles to four major county newspapers and a contractor’s newspaper with a collective readership of over 48,000; five radio programs; one television program, 3 city bus signs and 3 movie advertisement slides.

Industrial, commercial and institutional audits comprised of 65 facilities were conducted by the ICI and WWES program.  Some of those audits resulted in a combined potential savings of more than 15.7 acre-feet of water (an acre foot is 325, 851 gallons). The amount of water potentially saved from the remaining audits could not be quantified. Documentation of water savings within this sector can be measured with a caveat: the audit report can only quantify potential savings. Due to labor shortages and replacement costs, many water saving recommendations from the audit are not immediately achievable. The ICI sector also assists the governmental Cochise County Conservation Program by visiting recipients of their toilet replacement program. Approximately 50 percent of the 48 visits needed to have the float level adjusted to keep their new toilets from leaking water.

The Water Wise Youth and WWES Programs conducted 155 classroom presentations reaching 3,380 students and indirectly reached over 6,000 family members. The program also held its second Water Festival with 464 fourth grade students participating in three educational activities. The program also conducted a Thirsty Lizard quantitative water conservation program with 200 student participants. Average weekly savings of 57 gallons of water per student occurred after the week-long special program.

In 2004 the City of Sierra Vista Public Works Department reported city wide water savings of 93 million gallons (285 acre feet), a savings of approximately 4 percent compared to 2003. The Water Wise Program has been credited as one of the organizations contributing to this savings. Ft. Huachuca (U.S. Army)) was recognized for reducing water consumption by 42 million gallons (7.5 percent) over FY01, with the Water Wise and Energy Smart program recognized as an important contributor to the Fort’s success. Figures for 2005 are pending.

Water Wise has been recognized by a consortium of 21 federal, state, county, city and stakeholder organizations - called the Upper San Pedro Partnership- as the educational outreach program for community water conservation.


“My wife and I are indeed appreciative of the time and effort you and the Water Wise partners and sponsors have put forth. We have been more aware of our water use because of your help. We hope more people use your service; the whole community will benefit greatly”

“I so enjoyed your visit as well as benefited from it. I’ve pored over the materials you left. Much thanks again”.

The WWES educators received a personal communication from Colonel Hunter, the Ft. Huachuca Garrison Commander, praising the program and stating that the has asked staff to work on developing a plan to leverage the WWES Program to higher-level commanders to increase the current successful water conservation efforts.

Cochise County, City of Sierra Vista, Fort Huachuca, Upper San Pedro Partnership, Bella Vista Water Company, Arizona Water Company, Pueblo del Sol Water Company, Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative, Southeast Arizona Association of Realtors.

Cado Daily, Program Coordinator, Water Wise
Cochise County Cooperative Extension, Sierra Vista Office
The University of Arizona
1140 N. Colombo
Sierra Vista, AZ 85635-2390
(520) 458-8278, ext. 2139 office
(520) 626-2492 fax

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