Tucson Water Turnaround

Twenty two years before the lead contamination tragedy in Flint, MI, the Tucson Water Department began delivery of a new water supply: treated Colorado River water from the Central Arizona Project. The new supply caused a devastating corrosion problem that resulted in rusty, smelly water flowing from customers’ taps.

This book, co-authored with Michael J. McGuire, presents the results of an investigation into the debacle and chronicles how Tucson Water changed its management practices, restored its lost credibility, ended overpumping of its groundwater, and created a sustainable water supply for the Tucson area.

The book was published by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) in the Spring of 2020, and is available from both Amazon and AWWA.

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/mariepearthree

To purchase this book from Amazon, click here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1625763433?pf_rd_r=F6WZYA2XYAS8VEXHRAYX&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee

To purchase it from AWWA, click here: https://www.awwa.org/Store/Product-Details/productId/77449716


“This is more than a story about a water utility and how it confronted a water quality problem. It’s about organizational management or mismanagement, crisis management, customer relations, and politics.” Joe Bernosky, Director, Water and Power Dept., Loveland, CO

“This monumental study is important at two levels: (1) It provides in fascinating detail the story of Tucson’s faltering but ultimately successful efforts to incorporate Colorado River water in its groundwater-based water utility, and (2) It offers valuable lessons in management of any complex enterprise, especially one overseen by a governmental institution.” Peter Likins, former President, University of Arizona.

“It’s a tale of stunningly poor decision-making, rife with elements that every water utility can identify in its own midst. A perfect storm, perhaps, but also 100% avoidable… This is a cautionary tale that can help educate water leaders for generations to come.” Elisa Speranza, Water Consultant

“This [book] was very easy to read and…so interesting and compelling that I literally found it difficult to put it down.” Water Utility Manager.

“…the lessons learned should…be made available to any organization that wants to protect and enhance the trust of its customers.” Bruce Johnson, former Tucson Water Manager.

“This is the book I wish I had read before I started as Chief Executive Officer of DC Water.” George Hawkins, Moonshot Missions


  • Chapter 1 October Surprise for Tucson
  • Chapter 2 Water in the Sonoran Desert
  • Chapter 3 Extending the Straw to Tucson
  • Chapter 4 Selling the New Water Supply
  • Chapter 5 Designing Treatment for CAP Water
  • Chapter 6 Distribution System Woes
  • Chapter 7 Hayden-Udall Water Treatment Facility Operations
  • Chapter 8 Debacle Begins
  • Chapter 9 Wake-Up Calls
  • Chapter 10 Extending the Straw to Tucson
  • Chapter 11 Bifurcation to Abandonment
  • Chapter 12 Moving Beyond CAP Direct Delivery
  • Chapter 13 Searching for Solutions
  • Chapter 14 Putting Customers First
  • Chapter 15 “At the Tap” Meets a New Leader
  • Chapter 16 Turnaround and Success
  • Chapter 17 Epilogue

Marie is available for presentations. Her goal, and that of her co-author Michael J. McGuire, is to tell the Tucson Water Turnaround story as widely as possible so that water quality tragedies, like those that have unfolded in Flint, MI, Newark, NJ and many other communities around the country, do not continue to happen.

Please contact her via the “Contact” page (click here: https://mariepearthree.com/contact/ )

You can also find her on Facebook and LinkedIn