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 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.

For more information, visit the web page for the Tucson City Code.