Tucson residents have pledged to save nearly 39 million gallons of water, and if they do, they could save up to $1.6 million on their water bills.

The pledges were part of a national competition, the Wyland Foundation's National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation. The event is designed to educate people on water use and conservation, and pits cities of similar size against each other.

Tucson won the challenge for its population size, the second-largest population category, competing with Omaha, Las Vegas, Miami and others.

“The idea was to get people online to commit to saving water and to commit to saving waste resources, and Tucson won," said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.

For the win, Rain Bird Corp. donate new irrigation systems for two city parks, said Alex Nathanson, a corporate marketing manager for Rain Bird.

“This is a highly efficient irrigation system - the sprinklers, the controls the valves, pretty much everything the city needs to get that park up to just green beautifulness that people can go and enjoy,” Nathanson said.

Toumey Park, near South Columbus Boulevard and East 22nd Street, will get a new system, and another park will get new irrigation control boxes to better control water usage, Rothschild said.

Saving water can mean small changes at home, such as adjusting irrigation systems to water the right amount at the right time of day, or doing full loads of laundry, turning off the water while brushing teeth or landscaping with low-water plants.

But larger home-improvement projects can make a big difference, from installing gray water systems to capture dishwater and rain water for reuse on landscaping, to removing a swimming pool, Rothschild said.

Another big water-saving trick is to look for leaks, said Fernando Molina, spokesman for Tucson Water.

“If you see a leak, fix it. That represents water that had to be developed and had to be delivered to your house, and because of our rate structure you might pay a premium for that water that's coming out through the leak,” Molina said.

Water conservation will save people money, but the city is considering raising rates for water customers.

The Tucson City Council is considering raising water rates. Three proposals for increases would add between $2.91 and $3.68 to the average residential water customer's monthly bill, Molina said. Nearly 90 percent of the department's customers are residential.

The department hopes to have a new rate in place by the beginning of the next fiscal year, July 1. The council must approve any rate increase.

The increase would bring in about 8 percent more for the department and would raise its annual revenue to $338.9 million, Molina said.

The department has scheduled meetings for public information and feedback on the proposed rate increases. Two of those remain:

Tues., May 14, Randolph Regional Center, Mesquite Room, 200 S. Alvernon Way.
Weds., May 15, William M. Clements Recreation Center, 8155 E. Poinciana Drive.