Understanding the Water Resources of a Mountain-block Aquifer: Tucson Mountains, Arizona
Author: Christopher J. Eastoe and Kimberly R. Beisner,Issue #175
Water resources are limited in arid locations such as Tucson Basin. Residential development in the Tucson Mountains to the west of Tucson, Arizona, is limited by groundwater resources. Groundwater samples were collected from fractured bedrock and alluvial aquifers surrounding the Tucson Mountains to assess water quality and recharge history through measurement of stable O, H, and S isotopes; tritium; and 14C. Most groundwater is a mixture of different ages but is commonly several thousand years old. A few sampling locations indicated a component of water recharged after the above-ground nuclear testing of the mid 1950s, and these sites may represent locations near where the aquifer receives present-day recharge. The Tucson Mountains also host sulfide deposits associated with fractures and replacement zones; these locally contribute to poor-quality groundwater. Projections of future climate predict intensifying drought in southwestern North America. In the study area, a combination of strategies such as rainwater harvesting, exploitation of renewable water, and low groundwater use could be used for sustainable use of the groundwater supply.