Smart business owners know that saving water saves money. But in Tucson’s desert climate, saving water is also good for our community. With limited water resources, we have a shared responsibility to conserve the amount of water we use. Your business can be a leader in our community by taking steps to reduce water consumption. Explore the information and water-saving strategies below and start saving!

Remember, water use and energy use are connected because it takes energy to deliver water and it takes water to create energy. You can make an even bigger impact by reducing your water and energy use. Visit the Business Tools: Energy and Climate Change page for energy-saving tips and information.

Land Development

Where development occurs will have a lasting impact on the sustainability of our community. Development should bring assets to the community and respect the integrity of our natural ecosystems. A well-planned site design can achieve these goals and add to the sustainability of the community. Below are City codes and policies that affect development, and resources and programs to facilitate sustainable development practices.


The Tucson Water Department Planning and New Development website provides information about water use and hook-ups for developers.

Use reclaimed water for landscape irrigation. Tucson Water has been delivering reclaimed water to customers for more than 20 years. Using reclaimed water for irrigation saves groundwater for drinking. In 2005, reclaimed water customers saved 4.2 billion gallons of drinking water; enough for 39,000 families for a year. Click here to learn more about Tucson’s reclaimed water program and how to become a reclaimed water customer.

City Commercial Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance

Requires all new commercial development to prepare a landscape water budget and supply 50% of the landscape water needs with harvested rainwater beginning on June 1, 2010.

City Water Harvesting Ordinance

The City of Tucson Land Use Code addresses water harvesting requirements in sections,, and The focus of these ordinance sections is on harvesting rainwater to supplement on-site irrigation of vegetation. 

On October 18, 2005, the Mayor and Council passed an Ordinance (number 10210) adopting the Water Harvesting Guidance Manual for use by developers in planning a strategy to implement water harvesting for new developments, including City projects. The manual is primarily directed toward commercial developments, subdivision common areas, public buildings and public rights-of-way, but the concept designs and configurations are easily adapted for residential lot use. The Water Harvesting Guidance Manual provides information on water harvesting techniques, their appropriate placement, and the context of water harvesting in site design. It also addresses engineering considerations and landscape considerations, among other relevant topics.

Riparian Preservation Codes and Policies:

The City of Tucson has a long-standing commitment to preserving watercourses in their natural state. The initial City direction for regulation of watercourses was the adoption of the Interim Watercourse Improvement Policy (IWIP) by the Mayor and Council on June 27, 1988. The IWIP contains specific policies that encourage the preservation of natural watercourses and the design of landscaped, natural-appearing channels. The IWIP also contains policies restricting the use of concrete for bank protection and channelization. 

Riparian Habitat within the City is protected through 3 regulations:

1. Watercourse Amenities, Safety and Habitat (W.A.S.H.) Ordinance

Chapter 29, Article VIII was adopted by Mayor and Council on March 25, 1991 to implement the Interim Watercourse Improvement Policy, to protect existing vegetation near specific washes, to provide for restoration of vegetation along disturbed wash reaches, to reduce heat island effects and to aid groundwater recharge.

2. Environmental Resource Zone (ERZ)

The ERZ was adopted as a zoning regulation to preserve open space, particularly the critical and sensitive habitats linked with public monuments, forests and preserves.

3. The Floodplain and Erosion Hazard Management Code (Chapter 26) provides for the management of uses and development in floodplains to protect the public from flooding and to protect riparian habitats. All proposed developments within the 100-year floodplain must be reviewed for compliance with these regulations. Any development in the 100-year floodplain requires a floodplain use permit that must be approved by the City Engineer.


    All watercourses with a 100-year discharge of 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) or more are regulated under the Floodplain and Erosion Hazard Management Code (Chapter 26). WASH and ERZ regulations only apply to certain designated watercourses. Click here to see if a watercourse is designated as WASH or ERZ.

    For additional guidance on compliance with Chapter 26, WASH, and ERZ, the City has adopted the Interim Watercourse Preservation Policy and Development Standard. Properties on which there is a regulated watercourse may be required to complete a Watercourse Resources Report (WRR).

    The Interim Watercourse Maintenance Guidelines (pdf) were developed as part of the Tucson Stormwater Management Study (TSMS) to "provide field guidance to maintenance workers to achieve consistent drainage maintenance City-wide." The Interim Watercourse Maintenance Guidelines provide general maintenance techniques for natural, altered from natural, and constructed watercourse classifications that reflect the extent of urbanization of the watercourse. These guidelines are currently under revision. The revised guidelines will address maintenance of both publicly and privately owned watercourses.

    Drought Tolerant Landscaping Resources:

    • Arizona Department of Water Resources plant list

    References for Identifying and Selecting Landscape Plants for the Low Desert (UofA)

    • Xeriscape: Landscaping with style in the Arizona desert - Resources

    • SmartScape Workshops. SmartScape is a series of nine two-hour workshops designed to encourage consistent horticultural practices compatible with the Sonoran Desert. The classes are designed for Green Industry personnel including property managers, landscape maintenance and installation personnel, nursery personnel, landscape architects and designers, and other allied professionals who are responsible for urban landscapes.


      Building Construction

      According to the EPA, commercial buildings use close to 20% of U.S. drinking water supplies. Reducing total commercial building water consumption by just 10% would mean saving well over 2 trillion gallons of water each year. Designing homes and buildings with water conservation in mind is a great contribution to water sustainability in Tucson. When water-saving fixtures, appliances, and landscaping are incorporated during construction, homeowners and tenants save money and the community benefits through responsible water use. There are a number of water-saving options available. Explore the ideas below and utilize the resources for more information.


      Install low water-use fixtures. Low-flow fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens can reduce the flow of water by 50%!

      Visit the EPA’s WaterSense website for a listing of water efficient appliances and fixtures. Look for the WaterSense label to choose quality, water-efficient products.

      Faucets- The faucets in bathroom sinks generally use about 2.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm). Installing a faucet aerator is a simple and inexpensive way to reduce water use in the bathroom. Faucet aerators reduce output from 2.5 gpm to 1.5 gpm! This is a savings of about 40%!

      Toilets- Although newer toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, consider installing dual-flush toilets. These toilets provide two flushing options: low at 1.6 gallons and ultra-low at 0.9 gallons! For even more savings, install waterless urinals.

      Install low water-use appliances. Give new homeowners good appliances that save water and money.

      Dishwashers- The dishwasher is one of the biggest water users in the kitchen. A typical dishwasher uses about 25 gallons of water per load. However, some of the newer, more energy- and water-efficient models use as little as 13 gallons of water per load.

      Washing Machines- Keep in mind that laundry uses 22% of all water in a home! Select models that are more energy- and water-efficient. Horizontal-axis (or front loading) washing machines use about half the water of conventional washing machines and have been found to clean clothes better than standard models.

      Install a grey water system or stub-outs. Greywater is water that has been used in washing machines, bathroom showers and tubs, and bathroom and laundry sinks. Though not suitable for drinking or cooking, this water is a good resource for landscape irrigation as an alternative to using potable water. Grey water is a valuable water asset and should be used wherever possible. Design homes and buildings to include greywater infrastructure so homeowners and tenants can make the most of their water resources.

      City Residential Gray Water Ordinance

      Requires the installation of gray water “stub-outs” in all new residential construction beginning on June 1, 2010.

      Visit Tucson Water’s website for more information about using greywater:

      Download the City’s report on using greywater for your home:


      Download AZDEQ’s brochure on using greywater:

      Arizona Tax Credits for Water Conservation

      Effective January 1, 2007, Arizona taxpayers who install a “water conservation system” (defined as a system to collect rainwater or residential greywater) in their residence may take a one-time tax credit of 25% of the cost of the system up to a maximum of $1,000. Builders are eligible for an income tax credit of up to $200 per residence unit constructed with a water conservation system installed. Click here for more information about the tax credit and its application form from the AZ Dept. of Revenue.

      Use permeable surfaces. In most non-urban landscapes, rainwater percolates into the ground where it falls, slowly making its way through plant roots and soil to the groundwater reservoirs and aquifers which hold our drinking water. In developed areas, millions of square feet of concrete, asphalt, roofs, and other impermeable surfaces create enormous quantities of runoff which can overwhelm natural drainages, flood the areas where water does collect, and divert water away from groundwater reservoirs. These surfaces are considered impermeable because they are not porous enough to allow water to penetrate and soak into the ground below. New technologies exist to replace traditionally impermeable surfaces, such as parking lots, sidewalks, and streets, with permeable alternatives that allow water to soak into our aquifers.

      Visit Toolbase Services for information about permeable alternatives. 

      Purchasing and Operations

      Business operations require water. In Tucson, the commercial and industrial sector uses about 35% of the water distributed. According to the EPA, commercial buildings use close to 20% of U.S. drinking water supplies. Reducing total commercial building water consumption by just 10-15% would mean saving well over 2 trillion gallons of water each year nationally and save on the costs associated with using that water! Review your business operations to determine how you are using water and look for ways to reduce your business’ water consumption. Explore the strategies and resources below to help get you started.


      Conduct a business water audit. The largest percentage of commercial and industrial water use is for outdoor use—35%! Find out how your business is using water and look for ways to reduce your consumption. If most of your water use is for outdoor landscaping, consider using native plants, reducing turf, and installing a rainwater harvesting system for irrigation. Strategies for reduction can be developed for all areas of your business’ water use.

      EPA Water Tracking Program information. This program is a part of the Portfolio Manager system

      Develop a water conservation program. Once you know how your business is using water, develop strategies for reducing consumption. A water conservation program should be multi-dimensional, including up-front investments in water-saving infrastructure and behavioral changes to improve individual water use habits.

      Become a WaterSmart BusinessBusinesses will receive public recognition, signs, plaques, advertising logos, discounts, networking opportunities, variances from future water restrictions, and more! 

      AZ Department of Water Resources’ Conservation Page Review information about commercial and industrial water conservation.

      EPA Water Efficiency Program: WaterSense

      Explore this website to learn about WaterSense labeled products, saving water, and how businesses and organizations can partner with WaterSense.

      Use water efficient products and fixtures. Look at faucets and toilets throughout your building. If you have old or leaking fixtures, switch to low-flow models that will save you water and money. Click here to search for products on the EPA WaterSense website.

      Tucson Water Rebate Programs for high efficiency toilets, irrigation system upgrades, and pre-rinse nozzles.

      Use reclaimed water for landscape irrigation. Tucson Water has been delivering reclaimed water to customers for more than 20 years. Using reclaimed water for irrigation saves groundwater for drinking. In 2005, reclaimed water customers saved 4.2 billion gallons of drinking water; enough for 39,000 families for a year. Click here to learn more about Tucson’s reclaimed water program and how to become a reclaimed water customer. Also review the Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Resources at the top of this page under the Land Development section.


      Employee water use habits contribute to your businesses water consumption. Educate your workforce about why saving water is important and offer solutions to improve water use behaviors. For example, if you work in the restaurant industry, educate your employees about water efficient ways to wash dishes. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway or sidewalk and save 80 gallons of water every time!