Ever wonder why Tucson water bill keep going up, despite the fact that Tucsonans use less water?

Alan Forrest, new director of city-owned Tucson Water, says in an Arizona Illustrated interview that it's because inflation is negating the cost savings from conservation.

"We're not immune to inflation," Forrest says. "Inflation is really outstripping the savings we would see from less water use. An easy way to say it is we've been doing a great job conserving water ... but our costs are still going up. We would have these additional costs whether we were saving water or not."

He points out that Tucson has one of the lowest per-capita water use figures in the country.

"We've had a real good conservation ethic here in Tucson for many, many years," Forrest says.

Despite that, he says, the Tucson Water system is sprawling, and its maintenance costs are constantly rising.

Forrest took over as head of Tucson Water this summer, in what he calls "coming home for me, kind of full circle."

He started with Tucson Water in 1985 and worked in the agency nine years before working for the next several years with other smaller water utilities in the area. He worked with a Tucson consulting engineering firm on water projects before returning to Tucson Water.

Top projects for his agency are a new water treatment plant on the South Side to help meet upcoming federal environmental standards and a southern Avra Valley system for putting Central Arizona Project into the water table and recovering it for later use.