Phoenix Water: Smart

The City of Phoenix began municipal water utility operations in 1907. Today, Phoenix Water treats and distributes tap water to 1.5 million customers daily, manages the city's sewer system, and handles wastewater treatment operations for 2.5 million residents in the Valley of the Sun. Our vast infrastructure includes 7,000 miles of water lines and 5,000 miles of sewer lines, eight treatment plants, 50,000 fire hydrants and 90,000 manholes over a 540 square-mile service area.

We are acutely aware of the challenges posed by drought and climate change because hot and dry is our daily reality and always will be. Living in the desert imparts a deep appreciation for the value of water, which has driven the City of Phoenix to methodically acquire water supplies over the past 100 years. These supplies include water from the Salt, Verde, and Colorado Rivers, groundwater, and reclaimed wastewater. We've also banked water underground that we don't need today, for availability when shortages of Colorado River water occur. We’re making smart, strategic choices today to ensure quality, reliable water delivery for generations to come.  As a result of these choices, Phoenix uses only around half of the Salt and Verde River water supplies, and only two-thirds of the Colorado River supplies to which it is entitled on an annual basis.

Recently, the city rolled out several innovative agreements and partnerships to further protect our water supply. In October 2014, Phoenix Water entered into an unprecedented agreement with the City of Tucson. As part of the agreement, Phoenix will store some of its unused Colorado River water in Tucson aquifers. During future shortages on the Colorado River, the City of Tucson will pump the stored water out of its aquifer, and deliver it to customers in Tucson. In exchange, Tucson will order a part of its Colorado River water for delivery to Phoenix water treatment plants, and ultimately, Phoenix customers. Another initiative is the Colorado River Resiliency Fund. Through this annual $5 million dollar fund, Phoenix can earmark projects such as aquifer recharge, well-sharing agreements, Colorado River system conservation, and other efforts that help ensure the resiliency of Phoenix’s water supply.

In May 2015, the city entered a three year partnership with the National Forest Foundation to help protect Phoenix's water supply. Through this partnership, the city will invest $200,000 per year in the Northern Arizona Forest Fund, a program developed by the National Forest Foundation and Salt River Project that is designed to improve forest health and water quality in the Salt and Verde River watersheds.

We are proud that sixteen years into the current drought, Phoenix has adequate supplies, and a buffer of supplies available to mitigate against the impact of drought, shortage and climate change. This is due in part to the fact that Phoenix residents truly understand the importance of water conservation in a desert city. Instead of implementing government mandates, we focus our efforts on ensuring a strong conservation signal in our water rates, educating our customers, and then making sure they have the tools to use water wisely in a manner that is best suited for their families and businesses. This strategy has paid off in dividends. Phoenix’s gallons per capita per day (GPCD) use of water has fallen roughly 30% over the last twenty years. Bottom line, water deliveries to Phoenix residents are less than they were in 1995, despite the fact that we serve 400,000 more people.

Phoenix has enough water to support a vibrant economy in a responsible and sustainable manner.  We have methodically planned it that way.  We've worked tirelessly to acquire water supplies from diverse sources decades before they are needed, to reclaim and reuse wastewater, and to protect groundwater for the future.  We've made sure that our water supplies are sufficient to safeguard public health, quality of life, and economic opportunities here in this desert, sixteen years into the current drought, and with shortages looming on the Colorado River.