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Where the Water Flows

Tubac Water/Ways


Santa Cruz River


Sonoita Creek

Ephemeral Tributaries

Cottonwood Canyon Wash

Josephine Canyon Wash

Madera Canyon Wash

Montosa Canyon Wash

Water Production and Processing Facilities

EPCOR (private utility supplying water to Tubac via groundwater pumping)

Arizona American Water (private wastewater treatment utility)

Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant (internationally-operated plant in Nogales, Mexico that releases treated effluent into the Santa Cruz River)

Tubac ~ Host Site Profile

The First Water Rights

Tubac is located in south central Arizona, about fifty miles south of Tucson. Nestled in the Santa Cruz River valley at an elevation of 3,209 feet above sea level, the community is bordered by mountains to the east and west. The Santa Cruz River runs close to Tubac. The first Europeans to note the river were Spaniards, who recorded the encounter in 1691. The Spanish mission at Tumacácori began the same year. Spain established the Presidio (Fort) of San Ignacio de Tubac in 1752. The Tubac Presidio property holds the first water rights ever granted in what is now Arizona. They are based on the mapping of the water sources that supplied the property, carried out by the Spanish royal academy of engineers when the Presidio was founded.

4,000 Years of Gifts from the River

The fact that the often-subterranean path of the Santa Cruz River ran above ground between Tubac and Tumacácori was critical to the settlement of the area. Historians at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park believe that this may be the longest continually cultivated region in what is now the United States. Crops have been grown near the river for the past 4,000 years. Sobaipuri people lived in the area when Spanish settlers founded Tumacácori. The Sobaipuri were aligned culturally, and perhaps linguistically, with the Tohono O’odham. The Sobaipuri no longer exist as a distinct people; archaeologists and historians theorize that Spanish settlement forced them to merge with nearby O’odham communities. The present-day Tohono O’odham reservation lies quite far to the west and north of Tubac.

An Artistic Vision

Tubac is known throughout the region as a community of artists and artisans. After the Presidio fell into disrepair in the 1850s, the population of the nearby village dwindled to a handful of people. Artist Dale Nichols founded an art school at the site of the old village in 1948. An art colony slowly grew around the school. Today, the several blocks that comprise the community’s business district are filled mainly with art galleries, studios, gift shops, and cafes. Tourism is the primary driver of Tubac’s economy. Many residents of the village and the area surrounding it are retirees; in fact, only a third of adult community members are employed. Mining is not conducted in Tubac itself, but it does occur nearby and affects the economy of the larger area. Especially because of its impact on water supply and quality, residents are divided over whether expansion of mining operations in the region is desirable.

Community Partners

Friends of the Santa Cruz River

The Friends is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization working to protect the health of the river and its ecosystem since 1991. The organization conducts workshops, sponsors research, and distributes hiking guides to engage the community in care for the Santa Cruz River.

Tumacácori National Historical Park

This park tells the story of one of the first Spanish missions in the area. O’odham, Yaqui, and Apache people interacted with European missionaries, settlers, and soldiers at the mission. In addition to preserving the site and providing historical interpretative displays and programs, park historians have archived the mission records and made them available for online research.

Water Resources Research Center

WRRC’s mission is to enhance public understanding of Arizona water issues with policy research and analysis, management recommendations, and outreach to academics, elected officials, water professionals and residents. It is home to Arizona Project WET, a highly regarded water education program for Arizona teachers. WRRC is affiliated with the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Video Testing: Amerind Museum Storm (no sound)