“Water use in Arizona peaked in 1980 and has been declining since, even as population has more than doubled,” according to John Fleck, author of “Water is for Fighting Over and Other Myths about Water in the West.” Fleck points to Phoenix, where “total water use (not per capita, total) peaked in 2002. Since then, water use has declined by 15 percent, while population has gone up by 14 percent.”
According to city of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, “Phoenix has grown 30 percent over the last 20 years, but we use less water than we did 10 years ago.” Phoenix has enacted seasonal water pricing policies that promote conservation during the hot summer months, and the city offers a website, workshops and school outreach to promote wise water use.
The city of Tucson’s “beat the peak” initiative promotes water conservation by encouraging residents to avoid watering grass or other plants during the hottest parts of the day. Tucson was also one of the first cities to enact a tiered water pricing structure, which charges residents a base amount for essential water needs and increases the price of water for non-essential landscaping choices. This provides an economic disincentive for residents to consume large quantities of water. Tucson also offers a Water Harvesting Guidance Manual for collecting water from rainstorms and using that water for landscaping.
The city of Tempe also has a tiered rate structure to encourage water conservation, whereby residents who consume less water have lower bills while those who consume more water have higher bills. While there is some debate in the community about these pricing policies, Tempe is committed to promoting water conservation in other ways. Residents can expect rebates for drought-resistant landscaping, low-flow toilets and harvesting graywater, as well as free water use audits, a website, workshops and school outreach about wise water use for its residents.
Through water conservation measures, the city of Flagstaff has reduced water consumption by 50 percent since 1988. Flagstaff has enacted watering rules with restrictions limiting the time of day and day of the week that residents can irrigate. In addition, Flagstaff offers rebate programs for water harvesting, low-flow toilets and turf reduction, as well as educational resources and a website that encourages wise water use including tips for water harvesting and conservation regarding freezing pipes and leaks.
Cities throughout Arizona are leaders in water conservation and have used creative solutions – including market-based policies, regulations and educational initiatives – to reduce water consumption and promote an ethic of conservation. Fortunately, the data shows that cities’ water conservation strategies are working.
Alexandra Arboleda is an attorney with The Storey Lawyers (storeylawyers.com), where she specializes in water and natural resources law, and an elected member of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors, which manages the Central Arizona Project canal and Arizona’s Colorado River supplies. She received her B.A. in political science from Stanford University and her J.D. from University of Arizona.
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