As early as 2,100 BCE there were villages along the Santa Cruz River in the heart of what would become Tucson (source
). By 1,200 CE the Hohokam used the Santa Cruz River for drinking water, irrigation, and fishing. Native Americans have continuously inhabited this arid region from prehistoric times to today, pioneering water harvesting and dryland farming techniques and creating the oldest known irrigation canals in North America.
In the 1800s, Southern Arizonans appointed a Zanjero each year. This elected water steward ensured that residents adhered to the communities’ agreed-upon usage standards. During droughts, the Zanjero helped water-use levels to ensure the entire community could share in the resource. Today Tucson continue this tradition, providing free water audits
to help customers conserve water.
Members of various immigrating cultures brought traditional practices of sustainable farming, household water conservation and reuse, and rainwater harvesting that underpin some of the water-wise values and methods many Tucsonans practice today.
In 1893, the first unofficial “beat the peak” campaign launched when Tucsonans were encouraged to conserve water during peak hours, delaying usage to the cooler night hours. This tradition continues today.