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Water Demand Down, Conservation Up

Saving Water is Always a Winning Strategy in the Desert Southwest

Drought is a way of life in the desert, but decades of active conservation measures have helped Arizona grow while using the same — or even less — amount of water.

While the state’s population has more than doubled since 1980, total water use has decreased by a third.

“Arizona uses the same amount of water today as it did in 1957, even though the population is five times larger,” said Christa McJunkin, Salt River Project’s director of Water Strategy, who credited municipal programs that include training and education, outreach services, landscape consultations, events, rebates, research and innovation, and ordinances as among the reasons for the trend of lower water demand.

Also, municipal providers and private utilities in Arizona are subject to mandatory reporting and conservation requirements that effectively reduce consumption in their community, she said.

Another key to conservation is that water in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area is aggressively recycled. Nearly 100 percent of all the water from Valley wastewater treatment plants is reused or recharged, so the water that goes down the sewer is treated and then is being reused to water golf courses and parks — or recharged underground for use at a future date.

“We communicate regularly with municipalities, Indian communities and other irrigation districts that receive SRP water,” McJunkin said. “This includes sharing forecasts and water supply information so they can do the planning they need to serve their current and future customers.”

SRP has had a long-standing, collaborative relationship with municipal water providers and water agencies in the metropolitan area to plan and implement water conservation activities, McJunkin said. Some of these partnerships include the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, the Water – Use It Wisely campaign and the Arizona Department of Water Resources. The Water – Use It Wisely campaign was launched in 1999 to promote an ongoing water conservation ethic among Arizona’s rapidly growing population. There are 20 regional partners, including SRP and the city of Phoenix.

Also, SRP provides an annual water conservation expo, the largest one-day distribution of EPA WaterSense-labeled smart irrigation controllers in the nation. The event educates Valley residents on ways to save water while customers also learn about SRP’s role in water management, stewardship and conservation. This year’s event in March drew a record crowd of more than 1,800 customers. A variety of learning opportunities were available, including visiting with 48 exhibitors and city representatives, and classes about xeriscape (low-water-use landscape) and smart irrigation controllers.

Even though central Arizona is in the midst of one of the driest runoff seasons on record, SRP’s reservoirs are still a combined 54 percent full. While the current drought continues with the seventh below-normal runoff season in the last eight years, SRP’s water-storage and delivery system is not near a crisis situation, said Charlie Ester, SRP’s manager of Surface Water Resources. Because of the reduced demand and conservation efforts throughout the Valley, Ester remains optimistic that SRP will successfully manage the drought-limited resources to meet its water shareholder needs.

While much of Arizona's water supply has been sustainable through improvements in water-efficiency measures and technologies, water conservation remains a cost-effective way to stretch supplies. Even small changes that have a minimal impact to one’s lifestyle can make a big difference when compounded over a region the size of metro Phoenix.

For water conservation tips and more information about the water supply situation for the Salt and Verde rivers and the Colorado River system, visit www.droughtfacts.com and www.azwater.gov. In addition, www.amwua.orgwww.wateruseitwisely.com and www.srpnet.com/cityinfo provide additional options for how to conserve and improve water efficiency either at your home or business.