Safford Still Struggling With Severe Drought Despite Active Monsoon Season

July 23, 2014

The city of Safford is expanding its water conservation campaign to cope with the severe drought in southeast Arizona. The city’s water supply has reached its lowest level in almost 20 years.

About 25,000 people in the Safford area depend on groundwater in the Gila Valley, but there hasn’t been enough snow and rain to replenish the aquifer. Safford Mayor Chris Gibbs said it’s getting harder to pump water from the local wells.

"My estimate is somewhere around 35 to 40 percent are unusable," Gibbs said. "Unusable is at the point where there isn’t enough moisture and you’re drawing from the top of the water table and we just call it sucking sand."  

Two years ago, Gibbs declared a “water shortage emergency” and Safford passed an ordinance that allows the city to fine people for wasting water. Gibbs said voluntary conservation efforts have reduced water use by 17 percent and now the city has hired a consultant who will visit Safford schools urging students to shower and flush toilets less often.