Reusing Wastewater at Sweetwater Wetlands

A secluded corner in the Sweetwater Wetlands

 The Sweetwater Wetland is well known to Tucson’s birders. Located in the midst of an industrial area, between I-10 and the usually dry Santa Cruz River, Sweetwater is a man-made wetland constructed in 1996 to help treat secondary effluent and backwash from the reclaimed water treatment system at adjacent Roger Road Wastewater Treatment Plant. Not only does Sweetwater provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, it serves as an environmental education facility.

Away from the rest of the world        

Wide, level paths wind around ponds and streamside habitats, past informational signs and viewing platforms. Twelve-foot tall banks of rushes and cattails, cottonwood trees, and thickets of saltbrush give solitude to wild residents and human visitors alike. In the early morning the air is alive with the calls of birds. Flocks of ducks pattern the sky overhead. Birders with binoculars and cameras try to add rare species to their lists. More than 250 species have been reported at the wetlands, as well as amphibians, insects, and mammals such as bobcats.

A coot preening in the morning sunshine

Large recharging basins at one side of the complex not only attract thousands of waterfowl, they allow treated water to rapidly percolate down to the water table, where it can be recovered by wells and delivered for use in irrigating public spaces such as golf course , lawns, and roadside plantings.In 1940, the area’s water table was at 40’ below the surface. By 1998 it was below 100’. Reusing waste water is an idea whose time has come.

Shoveler ducks
Boat-tailed Grackle

Anna’s Hummingbird

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