Tucson, Arizona - On Monday, Jun. 24, Hispanic Access Foundation, Watershed Management Group, 23 members from the Tucson Evangelical Pastoral Association and Por la Creación Faith-based Alliance, which unites Latino faith leaders in the development of stewards for God’s creation, celebrated the Santa Cruz River Heritage water release and El Día de San Juan, the start of Tucson's annual monsoon season.

“For me it is very important to take care of the water because this way we protect our underground aquifers and we can prevent internal landslides from occurring,” said Pastor Tirso Rubin, President of Tucson Evangelical Pastoral Association. “We have to let nature take its own course, just as God created it. This would allow our communities to be surrounded by vegetation, which represents livelihood for our communities, productivity and life.” 

The day started with a tour at the Living Lab and Learning Center at Watershed Management Group, where attendees learned about different water harvesting techniques and green infrastructure that can be applied in various settings. It was then followed by a tour of Mission Gardens, a living agricultural museum of Sonoran Desert-adapted heritage fruit-trees, traditional local heirloom crops and edible native plants. The day ended with a visit to the Santa Cruz River, where everyone witnessed how the Heritage Project introduced recycled water to the river.

“It was inspiring to get together with these pastors of Tucson to share and learn about faith, science and community, more specifically river restoration, water conservation and green infrastructure,” said Joaquin Murrieta, Cultural Ecologist of Watershed Management Group. “We are all eager to learn and do more for the wellbeing of our Latin community in the Old Pueblo.”

Following the day’s events, the faith leaders signed onto a letter to Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Council Members expressing their community’s support for the proposed Green Stormwater Infrastructure Fund, which increase the investment in new and care of existing green stormwater infrastructure. Fully utilizing stormwater as a water resource to offset potable water use, cool neighborhoods, reduce stormwater pollutants and enhance recharge of aquifers to restore the heritage of flowing rivers is imperative for a healthy, resilient community facing hotter temperatures, more sporadic rainfall and a growing island effect.

“We are proud to see our community taking action and being part of various conservation activities and initiatives. We all share the moral obligation to protect our natural resources and our rivers for the wellbeing of our communities and future generations,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “For the Latino community, protecting the Santa Cruz River is about preserving the economic value it brings, maintaining a significant wildlife habitat and preserving the rich cultural heritage and history of the Tucson community.”

Re-use of treated wastewater is one of Tucson’s most significant water conservation tools. The Santa Cruz River Heritage Project will add up to 2.8 million gallons of recycled water daily (3,150 acre feet a year) to the Santa Cruz River. This added water will bring perennial flow to this portion of the river, fostering abundant native vegetation and wildlife along with new recreational and economic opportunities.