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AZ Sprinkler Tucson Ordinances

Tucson Ordinances

Commercial Rainwater Harvesting -

Ordinance 10597

On October 14, 2008, the City of Tucson Mayor and Council adopted the Commercial Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance No. 10597, the first of its kind in the country. The ordinance takes effect June 1, 2010, and applies to all new commercial construction.

Since its adoption, the Commercial Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance has been receiving attention as a model for cities and communities across the United States who are considering similar ordinances. These new rules are part of Tucson’s effort to promote water conservation and efficient use of water resources by the City and its residents. The code changes for Commercial Rainwater Harvesting require: 1. Facilities subject to the ordinance must meet 50% of their landscape demand using harvested rainwater, prepare a site water harvesting plan and water budget, meter outdoor water use, and use irrigation controls that respond to soil moisture conditions at the site. 2. Facilities have 3 years to establish plants before the 50% requirement must be met, and the requirement is waived during periods of drought. 3. The details of how facilities will comply with the Commercial Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance are contained in the Commercial Rainwater Harvesting Development Standard. Both passive water harvesting systems (systems that passively infiltrate rainwater into soil or porous pavement for use by vegetation), and active systems (systems that store water in tanks for future distribution to beneficial uses) are addressed in the Development Standard. Applicants may choose the water harvesting system or combination of systems that is most appropriate for their site. In general, commercial sites in Tucson should be able to meet 50% of the landscape water demand using passive water harvesting systems alone. 4. The Ordinance and Development Standards can be found at: Xeriscape Landscaping and Screening Regulations - Ordinance 7522

A Xeriscape landscaping and screening ordinance became effective in February 1991. This comprehensive landscape code applies to new multifamily, commercial, and industrial development. One of the goals of this ordinance is to conserve water by using established xeriscape principals in landscape design. The regulations require the use of drought-tolerant plants from a published list and limits non-drought tolerant vegetation to small “oasis” areas. Multifamily facilities may develop five percent of a site as an oasis area. Oasis areas for commercial facilities are restricted to 2.5% of a site. Any water features or turf must be confined to the oasis areas. Canopy trees are required within all buffer yards, along street frontages, and within parking lots with one tree for every 15 spaces. All exposed ground areas of a site must be landscaped with ground cover to control dust. Landscaped area must be designed to take advantage of storm water run-off and the use of water-conserving irrigation systems is required. Emergency Water Conservation – Ordinance 8461

During the spring of 1995, Mayor and City Council approved the Emergency Water Conservation Ordinance, which has the ability to regulate water use during emergency conditions. This ordinance is designed to ensure that the health and safety needs of the community are met during times of an emergency. Typically, such an event would limit the amount of water the utility would be able to deliver to its customers. An emergency situation might involve the loss of a well field, damage to a major transmission line, loss of a water treatment facility, or extended periods of high customer demand.

Regardless of the source of water, the ordinance allows for certain non-essential uses of water to be prohibited or restricted to ensure sufficient water is available to meet basic needs such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, toilet flushing, and maintaining sufficient flows for fire protection. Similar ordinances are in place in many other communities to address various emergency conditions.

Specific restrictions include:

A prohibition on all outdoor irrigation, except for areas using reclaimed water. A schedule designating specific watering days may be implemented in place of a ban. Washing of sidewalks, driveways, tennis courts, patios, and other paved areas is prohibited. Outdoor use of water-based play apparatus is prohibited. A minimum operating efficiency level of two cycles of concentration is required for water-cooled space and equipment cooling systems. Restaurants and other food service establishments are prohibited from serving water to customers, except upon request. Operation of outdoors misting systems used to cool public areas is prohibited. Filling of swimming pools, fountain spas, or other outdoor water features is prohibited. Washing of automobiles, trucks, trailers, and other vehicles is prohibited, except at facilities equipped with wash water recirculation systems.

Exemptions from the requirements may be granted for reasons related to public health and safety, or economic hardship. Water Waste and Tampering - Ordinance 6096

Since 1984, it has been illegal in Tucson to allow water to escape from private property onto another person’s property or onto public property such as alleys and streets. The water waste and tampering ordinance reinforces the message that it is unethical as well as unlawful to waste water in Tucson. Updates to the Water Waste and Tampering Ordinance were made in 1989, and again in 2000.

Tucson Water employs several citation officers or “water cops” who investigate all reported cases of water waste. They also look for evidence of water waste as they patrol Tucson’s streets. The “water cop” usually issues a warning for a first-time violation and provides information to the individual about how to correct the problem. If the problem continues, a citation is written. Cited individuals have five days in which to act (pay a fine or contest the charge), or automatically be held liable. Under the law, water wasters can be fined up to $1,000. Depending on the circumstances, this ordinance also allows a property manager or landscape contractor to be cited for water waste in addition to the property owner.

Water-wasting activities that are prohibited include:

  • Allowing water to escape from any premises onto public property, such as alleys or streets, or upon any other person’s property.
  • Allowing water to pond in any street or parking lot to a depth greater than ¼ inch or to permit water to pond over a cumulative surface area greater than 150 square feet on any street or parking lot.
  • Washing driveways, sidewalks, parking areas, or other impervious surface areas with an open hose, or a spray nozzle attached to an open hose, or under regular or system pressure, except when required to eliminate conditions that threaten public health, safety or welfare. This restriction does not apply to residential customers.
  • Operating a misting system in unoccupied non-residential areas.
  • Operating a permanently installed irrigation system with a broken head or emitter, or with a head that is spraying more than 10 percent of the spray onto the street, parking lot, or sidewalk. This prohibition does not apply unless the head or emitter was designed to deliver more than one gallon of water per hour during normal use.
  • Failing to repair a controllable leak, including a broken sprinkler head, a leaking valve, or a leaking faucet.

As part of the water ordinance, it also is illegal to tamper with or bypass water meters. The ordinance regulates illegal hose or water meter tie-ins. In 1989, the Mayor and City Council passed an amendment to the Tucson City Code related to bypassing water metering. The amendment places the burden of proof on the customer if the customer’s meter has been tampered with. Violators can be fined $250 on a first offense. The second offense carries a fine of $500 and subsequent offenses a minimum fine of $1,000.

Although violations of the Water Waste Ordinance carry the potential for fines and discontinued water service, the main effort of the Water Waste Enforcement program remains educational, even after a citation has been issued. A unique Water Management Diversion Program has been developed that will provide the responsible party with the knowledge, skills, and certain tools needed to effectively control water use on properties, with the goal of eliminating waste. The class is offered as an alternative to paying the penalty.

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