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Jul 30, 2014 11:00 PM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham

Tucson Water cop on patrol for water wasters

With scorching temperatures upon us, now more than ever, water is a precious resource in the desert.

Tucson's mayor and City Council approved the city's water waste ordinance back in 2000. So, how does Tucson Water enforce it?

They do so with the help of inspectors, whose job it is to respond to tips, and hit the streets, looking for water wasters.

For George Dowling, the day starts at dawn, as he patrols Tucson streets, keeping a sharp eye out for the tell-tale signs of our most precious resource.

"It just comes in time. You get out there, you start seeing it, and start looking for it, and then it becomes something that happens, and you see it all the time," Dowling said.

It doesn't take him long to spot a potential violation. It's at a midtown restaurant, where an employee has used a hose to clean off a drive-through.

"An employee may think he's helping out the company by rushing out there, hooking up the hose, and doing a bit of cleaning, but, he's violating that law," Dowling said.

Dowling takes plenty of photographs of the scene, and he even measures the depth of the water on the ground. Anything greater than a quarter-inch is a violation.

For non-residential customers, using an open hose to clean off a sidewalk, driveway or parking lot is a violation. You have to use a power-washer instead. Dowling said power-washers use a lot less water than an open hoses.

In this case, Dowling talked to the manager, who said he would pass the info along to his supervisor.

"A lot of times, you've got to make sure that everyone is aware of what needs to be taken care of," Dowling said.

Back on the road, and just a few minutes later, Dowling noticed another potential violation. He spots water, leaking from a downspout, near Grant and Campbell.

"Sometimes a few drops can quickly add up," Dowling said.

In this case, it's unclear whether the water is actually just condensation from an air conditioning unit, or possibly a leaky swamp cooler. So, Dowling makes a note to follow-up.

The next case seems obvious, as water poured out onto the street from what appears to be a busted irrigation system.

"We see a lot of issues with irrigation. Not only just systems getting old, but vandalism in certain areas of town, or on certain areas of property," Dowling said.

Despite spotting three cases in just a couple of hours, Dowling said, for the most part, Tucsonans are water-wise, when it comes to waste.

"I think overall we're very good. We actually get a lot of concerned citizens giving us a call, and reporting issues. So, there are a lot of eyes out there," Dowling said.

Tucson Water can issue a citation immediately, or they may develop an action plan, to help businesses stop the flow of wasted water.

You can report water wasters by calling Tucson Water at (520) 791-2514.

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