Building Better Water Rates in an Uncertain World

By Warren Tenney

Running a public water utility isn’t like any other business. This is because water is essential to everyone, at every economic level. Also, a city water utility isn’t out to make a profit. It can’t simply raise its prices to cover the cost of rising expenses or decreasing revenue. An elected city council, board or regulating commission must approve rate changes and that doesn’t always come easily.

It is a massive undertaking to reliably deliver safe and affordable water directly to homes and businesses and costs are rising. Water utilities are facing higher energy costs and expensive new water quality regulations. This is in addition to the cost of ongoing operations, hiring and keeping the best professional staffs, and maintaining and expanding extensive infrastructure, including miles of pipes, pumps and reservoirs. In addition to the obvious costs, water utilities are faced with uncertainties that could impact their finances, such as severe drought or an economic downturn.image-copy

So understandably, building a reasonable, yet adequate, water rate structure  is a hot topic among water professionals. That’s why nearly 100 of them gathered at a workshop last month presented by AMWUA and the Alliance for Water Efficiency. The objective of the workshop was to share new tools, information, and resources to help water utilities develop and successfully set effective rates that work for the utility and their customers.  Well-crafted rate structures provide revenue stability for the utility, ensure water flows reliably and safely, and encourage the efficient use of water, while still being affordable for the customer.  That’s not an easy balancing act.   

Developing and setting effective rates is a complex process.  Water professionals must determine how much water customers will demand five or ten years from now, how much it will cost to provide it, and determine rates that will be equitable and still cover rising expenses.  Like any business, water providers will need to continue to keep customers informed about what it takes to deliver water to their homes and businesses and why rate increases are necessary.


Members of AMWUA’s Board of Directors – Phoenix Councilwoman Thelda Williams, Avondale Councilman David Iwanski (right) and Mesa Councilman Kevin Thompson (left) –  talk about the difficulty of raising water rates.

Finance staffs, water resources managers, conservation staffs, public information officers, utility directors, city managers, and elected officials all play a role.  At the workshop, these professionals learned about new tools to help manage uncertainty, heard first hand about the challenges elected officials face in approving rates, and gained insight into the success of the Tucson area’s Metro Water District in setting a rate structure that balances needed income, uncertainties, and affordability.  Expert staff from the Alliance for Water Efficiency shared strategies for aligning water rates, revenues and resources and led an in-depth training on the Alliance’s Sales Forecasting and Rate Model.

Learning is never over for water professionals. AMWUA cities’ staffs collaborate regularly to share information and experiences that help streamline and strengthen their ability to ensure reliable, sustainable, secure water supplies for the Valley’s residents and businesses.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency is a stakeholder-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the efficient and sustainable use of water in the U.S. and Canada.  AMWUA’s assistant director serves on the Alliance’s Board of Directors.  Information on the Alliance’s Financing Sustainable Water initiative is available at 

For 47 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit


This Year’s Least Known Election Is One Of The Most Important

By Warren Tenney

Various races are competing for your attention on the ballot this election season. You know the high profile races for President of the United States, the U.S. Congress and the State Legislature. Yet, near the bottom of your ballot is one of the most important races – one that will directly impact you and your water. It is the election of five new members to the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors. If you are wondering what that is, you are not alone.

The Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) is the official legal name of the Central Arizona Project (CAP), the 336-mile canal that delivers Colorado River water from Lake Havasu to Phoenix and Tucson. The CAWCD Board of Directors is responsible for maintaining the more than 30-year-old CAP canal. Board members also set rates charged to its customers (including Valley cities), determine the taxes you pay to finance the CAP system, and establish policies to manage CAP water.

The CAWCD Board is a 15-member board with 10 elected from Maricopa County, four elected from Pima County, and one from Pinal County.  This year, Maricopa County voters will elect five of the Board positions. You are electing them to a six-year term, the same as for U.S. Senate. It’s not a high-profile race, so you may have to do a little more homework on the candidates. It is worth taking the time.

The CAWCD has the authority to set two property taxes for Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties. For the median priced home in Maricopa County – valued at $174,000 in 2016 -these taxes amount to roughly $24 a year.  These taxes are used primarily to repay the Federal government for constructing the CAP canal, operation and maintenance of the CAP system, and storage of Colorado River water for times of shortage. This is a nominal amount for the wise, long-term effort to keep our water future secure. 

During the next six years, many critical issues will be facing the CAWCD Board—in particular, setting the rates that utilities pay for Colorado River water delivered through the CAP.  Those costs are eventually passed on to you, the utility customer.  And those costs are likely to increase. Here are some of the reasons why.

1. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation could declare an official shortage of Colorado River water as soon as 2018.  A shortage would initially result in less Colorado River water delivered to CAP’s agricultural customers. Cities would still receive their full allocation of Colorado River water under an initial shortage declaration but cities also would pay more for their water. CAP must continue to generate enough money to maintain its delivery system, so cities would pay more to make up for lost revenue from agriculture customers.

2. It takes a lot of energy to move and lift Colorado River water uphill.  Ninety percent of CAP’s power comes from the Navajo Generating Station located on the Navajo Indian Reservation near Page, Arizona. New land and coal leases will be in place in 2019, which will increase the cost of CAP’s delivery of Colorado River water.

3. CAP must determine how it will recover Colorado River water stored in underground aquifers by the Arizona Water Banking Authority.  If shortages do become more serious, municipalities would need that stored water, and recovery of that water by CAP could be expensive. 

4.   CAP rates are directly linked to the operation and maintenance of the canal.  As the CAP’s infrastructure continues to age, maintenance costs will rise.

The cities are key CAP customers. Maricopa and Pima County cities with CAP contracts provide water to more than 85 percent of Arizona’s population.  CAWCD Board and the cities receiving CAP water will be facing important issues over the six-year terms of the candidates you are electing.  It will be critical that we work together for solutions that ultimately ensure you have secure, safe water at a reasonable price.

The CAWCD Board is a voluntary non-paid, non-partisan position.  It truly is public service and it remains important not to mix partisan politics into water.  So, do a little research.  Talk to water professionals if you know any. Search online to find out more about the candidates and who and what groups are endorsing them. Make a well-educated selection.  Above all, please do not just randomly vote or pick names that sound good. Share what you have learned with family, friends, and co-workers so they can also understand the importance of the CAP election.

The Board of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District will be making a big imprint on your future and Arizona’s.  It is important to have Board members who are committed to the wise management of the CAP system to ensure Arizona has a strong water future.  This means having Board members who are active and engaged in all the issues facing CAWCD.

Here are the ten candidates who are running for the CAWCD Board with a link for those who have a campaign website.  Kudos to the candidates for running and for understanding the importance of CAP water to Maricopa County and the rest of Arizona.   

Alexandra Arboleda 

Jennifer Brown

Frank Fairbanks                  

Michael Francis

Thomas Galvin           

Ben Graff

Rick Heumann           

Jim Holway

Mark Lewis

Rory Van Poucke

Warren Tenney was elected twice to serve as a member of the CAWCD Board from Pima County. He served as Vice-President of the Board and as Chairman of the Board’s Finance, Audit & Power Committee. He resigned his board position in January 2016 to become Arizona Municipal Water User Association’s executive director.

For 47 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit

Tempe Offers Residents And Businesses Online Access To Water Use

By Warren Tenney

Imagine watching your water consumption online in real time as easily as you access your checking account or medical records. By Spring 2017 about 5,000 City of Tempe homes and businesses will have online access to their hour-by-hour water use. Tempe will continue to add more customers until every Tempe business owner and resident with a water meter can monitor their water use by early 2019. The new water meter reading system is known as “advanced meter infrastructure” or AMI. While some cities are piloting AMI systems, Tempe is pursuing the most ambitious meter conversion in the Valley. Here are five things you should know about the system.

1. A giant step: There are two common ways most Valley cities read your water meter. The first: an employee drives past each home and a computer inside the vehicle reads each meter. The second: a water department employee drives into a neighborhood, parks a specially equipped van on a street or in a parking lot, and uses a computer to read each water meter within a half-mile or so. Some cities use a combination of both of these electronic systems, which are called “automatic meter reading” or AMR. Tempe tested but never committed to either of these AMR methods. Right now, Tempe water employees still read meters the old fashioned way – by opening the lid of your water meter box (which is usually in the ground in your front yard or in the alley), checking the dial, and entering a number into a handheld computer.  

2. How it will work: If your water meter is more than 7 years old, Tempe will install a new meter compatible with the new electronic system. If you have a newer meter, the city will place a new register on your existing meter. A network of “collectors and repeaters” will be attached mainly to city-owned light poles. This network will relay water use from each meter directly to a computer inside Tempe’s Customer Service Division for billing. The new system is flexible. In an emergency, such as a power or computer failure, Tempe would switch to an AMR system and each meter would be read by an employee from a specially equipped vehicle as it passes a home and business. Tempe selected a vendor to operate the system. The vendor also will be responsible for such things as system upgrades and data storage.

3. The rollout: Tempe’s 44,000 water meters are divided into four sections with about 10,000 to 11,000 meters in each. Each of these four sections has 20 routes consisting of varying numbers of meters, up to 1,000. The City will convert 5,000 meters within two sections by January. As each route is completed and tested, Tempe will notify water customers when they have the option of registering for an online portal that will allow them to watch their water use in real time on an hourly basis.

4. What the City gains: Tempe’s goals are improving water conservation and customer service. For example, monthly bills to customers are based on 30 days of water service, but that number can change. When meters are read manually, the number of days it takes to complete a route can vary because of unpredictable circumstances, such as sick days and rainy days. Adding one or two days of water usage to a bill can mean a noticeable increase in what customers pay that month. Fluctuating bills make it harder for customers to budget and often cause customer complaints and questions. The new system will provide Tempe with more accurate data within a uniform period of time, generating more uniform monthly bills. The new system also will provide data for planning purposes, such as tracking the water saved due to home and business water audits, rebates and other conservation programs. Tempe now has four regular employees and four temporary employees responsible for reading meters. Once the conversion is complete, the four regular employees will be assigned new responsibilities, such as fixing broken meters, responding to customer concerns, or completing disconnects.

5. What you gain: The AMI system helps to alert you sooner to a change in your water use. Being able to see patterns in your hourly water use gives you a better opportunity to pin point a problem.  For example, if your water use is suddenly higher than usual between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. when the irrigation system is running, you know the first place to look for a leak.


Advances in technology continue to help residents use water more efficiently.  Water meters are key to accounting for water used by customers and in turn can help customers find leaks quickly. If you need help fixing leaks, AMWUA’s Smart Home Water Guide has the answers.

For 47 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit

Beyond the Headlines: Facts about Your Drinking Water

By Warren Tenney

When media reports mix together the words “water” and “toxic” it’s no surprise the public would have concerns. Throw in a reference to an award winning film with Julia Roberts and certainly it must mean something is wrong with our water. This happened last week with stories about chromium-6. It is important to step back, make sure we have all the facts, and read beyond the headlines or sound bites. Chromium-6 is a substance found in small amounts in most American cities’ drinking water including those in the Valley.  Here’s what you need to need to know.2-2-8-nozzle

Fact 1: The municipalities in the Phoenix area consistently meet or exceed all of the safe drinking water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Cities are required to do so under the Safe Water Drinking Act.  In fact, water utilities are among the most regulated industries in the country.  Your tap water is safe to drink.

Fact 2: The more significant but less sexy story is that Valley water utilities collectively perform millions of tests and measurements throughout the year to ensure water treatment and distribution systems are safe.  Each of the AMWUA cities has an aggressive  water quality program with dedicated staff.  These professionals fan out daily across the various water service areas to take thousands of tests for hundreds of substances using state of the art equipment and laboratories to make sure your water consistently meets the safe drinking water standard.  Each city provides an annual water quality report to its customers, which should be newsworthy in their demonstration of the reliability of our safe drinking water.  If water quality is ever an issue in your city, you will be notified.

Fact 3: Chromium-6 is one of many components EPA is analyzing for health impacts to consider regulation or limits.  Because the EPA is analyzing chromium-6, the Valley Cities have been conducting tests to determine baseline levels of chromium-6 in the Valley.  A major source for chromium-6 in drinking water is mostly a naturally occurring element found in volcanic geologic formations in the Southwest.  While chromium-6 can also be discharged from industrial activities, here in the Valley its presence is predominantly due to Mother Nature.

Fact 4: Scientific research has not reached a consensus on what level and length of exposure to chromium-6 is hazardous. EPA set the drinking water limit of 100 parts per billion for total chromium, which includes the substances chromium-6 and chromium-3. EPA is in the process of reviewing and updating that standard. California is the only state to set a required maximum level for chromium-6 in drinking water, which is at 10 parts per billion. Scientists at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment have determined a goal of 0.02 parts per billion reduces the risk posed by chromium-6 to a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of developing cancer based on daily consumption of unfiltered groundwater over a 70 year period.  Again, this is a goal, not a requirement, for water providers in California. 

Fact 5: The source of chromium-6 in the Valley is primarily groundwater, which utilities then mix with surface water, which dilutes the levels in your tap water.  That dilution becomes even greater when you consider that most Valley cities predominantly use surface water.  For example, 98 percent of the City of Phoenix’s water supply is made up of surface water from rivers, which contains virtually no chromium-6.

Fact 6: New technology allows the detection of components in water at smaller and smaller levels than was previously possible.  While we know more about what is in our water, much more research is usually necessary to determine the actual effect it will have on us.  Another key challenge is that the technical feasibility of removing questionable constituents usually lags behind the technology to detect. 

Fact 7: The Environmental Protection Agency sets the standard for drinking water.  The Phoenix metropolitan area cities always comply with any new water standards required by the EPA.  This can and has meant making the necessary investments to meet new water quality regulations.  Water utilities cannot and should not be expected to make changes to their operations based on each new study released, especially when a scientific consensus is lacking on what is the best remedy. 

Fact 8: Your tap water goes through more testing and meets a higher standard than required for bottled water. 

Finally, here’s a personal observation. In the 1980s, I lived a total of four years in South Korea and China.  During that time, water had to be boiled to make it safe to drink.  This meant I drank a lot of tea since that indicated the water had been boiled.  Each time I returned to the United States, I considered myself so fortunate to be able to walk up to a faucet and drink right out of the tap.  I didn’t have to worry about getting water in my mouth while showering.  It is disappointing how over the last three decades we question our tap water due to isolated crises and the slick marketing of bottled water. 

Let’s keep our water in perspective.  Nothing will ever be a 100 percent safe, including breathing.  Public agencies can be questioned and should be challenged when we have concerns.  This is what brought about the Safe Drinking Water Act.  How fortunate we are to be able to question how many parts per billion a substance should be in water, when 1.8 billion people around the world don’t have access to safe water and 2.4 billion lack access to adequate sanitation.  I’m appreciative of the professional men and women working around the clock in the water industry in Arizona to make certain I have safe drinking water at such an affordable price.  I will continue to enjoy drinking water from the tap.

For 47 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit

Cities Offer Classes To Help You Reimagine Your Yard

By Warren Tenney

Monsoon storms brought temperatures down and brought more desert dwellers out to their patios. It’s the time of year when homeowners begin to reimagine their yards: a new tree here, some flowering shrubs there, perhaps a new irrigation controller or some contouring to retain more rain water. AMWUA cities understand this and are offering dozens of free landscape classes that can help you create the look you want.

A few  weeks ago, the City of Avondale presented “Fall and Winter Splashes for Desert Landscapes.” Those who attended learned how and where to plant 60 drought-tolerant trees, shrubs and vines to maximize their colorful foliage, fruit and flowers throughout the fall and winter. Here are a few of the trees and plants that were discussed. 

  • Cascalote Tree:  This hardy, moderate-growing evergreen offers yellow, lightly fragrant flowers throughout fall and winter.

    Cascalote Tree

    Cascalote Tree Photo: Kirti Mathura

  • Mexican-buckeye: This large shrub provides bright yellow foliage before it drops its leaves for the winter. (It also provides rose-pink flowers in the spring.)
  • Dalea: These bright shrubs come in several varieties that bloom purple, pink or yellow through the fall or winter.
  • Purple Prickly-pear: This low-maintenance cactus turns a dramatic deep purple during the winter.

    Purple Cactus

    Purple Prickly-pear Photo: Kirti Mathura

  • Queen’s Wreath: This fast-growing vine will keep its clusters of pink flowers deep into the fall.

There are still plenty of classes to attend. Avondale is offering free classes about landscape design, watering schedules and irrigation repair, pruning and vegetable gardening. Here is a sample of what is available in other cities in the coming months. (You’ll find a full list on the AMWUA website.) All the classes are taught by landscape experts and most require that you sign up ahead of time.

Dalea frutescens flowers1 DBG10.07cr

Dalia blossom Photo: Kirti Mathura

City of Mesa: “Hydrate Your Plants” – Create a beautiful, lush landscape with rainwater harvesting.

City of Peoria: “Homeowners Guide to Lush Lawns” – Receive easy, practical advice to help you maintain a healthy, beautiful and water-efficient lawn. 

City of Phoenix: “Rain Gardens” – Learn how to design an earth-friendly yard using simple earthworks and low-water-use plants.

City of Goodyear: “Meet Your Irrigation System”  – Take charge and learn the ABCs of controllers, emitters, valves and zones.

City of Glendale: “Happy Soil=Happy Plants” – Improve your soil to improve the vigor of your plants and reduce the need for excessive watering.

City of Chandler: “Create Your Own Oasis” – Learn the concepts of design, how to plan for small spaces, the desert plant palette, plant selection and plant combinations.

Mexican buckeye

Mexican-buckeye Photo: Kirti Mathura

Town of Gilbert: “Hummingbird and Butterfly Gardens” – Explore the numerous options for a colorful and water-efficient yard that will attract nature’s pollinators. 

City of Tempe: “Drip irrigation” – Get advice from a pro to help you design, install and maintain a drip irrigation system. 

City of Scottsdale: “Managing & Reducing HOA Water Use” – Learn how much water your HOA’s landscape needs and identify opportunities to improve water efficiency.

There are three things to remember about your yard in fall. 1) It’s a great time to plant. The soil is still warm but the coldest temperatures are still months away. 2.) Stop fertilizing your plants. Fertilizing encourages new growth that is susceptible to damage by colder temperatures. 3.) Continue to water deeply but not nearly as frequently as summer. Trees and plants don’t absorb as much water in cooler months and the cooler soil retains water longer.

Get ready to open your windows to fall and open your door to winter visitors. It’s the beginning of the end of an especially long hot summer and time to get free advice from your city about maximizing the beauty of your desert landscape.

For 47 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit

Try Living A Day Without Water

By Warren Tenney

Here’s a dare: Spend a day without water. The truth is you can’t. Even if you are willing to give up showering, brushing, flushing, washing your hands, doing laundry, using your dishwasher, watering your yard, jumping into your pool, cleaning your house and car, it’s not enough. That tee shirt you just pulled on, the gas in your car, the hops for your beer take many gallons of water to produce.

The Value of Water Coalition’s “Imagine a Day Without Water” is one of the more thoughtful national water awareness campaigns. The campaign’s goal is to help people understand where their water comes from and how important it is to maintain the infrastructure that delivers clean water to businesses and homes – and takes away wastewater. The official day to imagine your life without water is Thursday, September 15, but AMWUA embraces the campaign’s goals every day.idww2016highdef2

Where does our water come from? Most of the water delivered to Valley homes and businesses is river water. Colorado River water is transported through a 360-mile canal operated by Central Arizona Project and water from the Salt and Verde rivers is stored in reservoirs and transported through canals operated by Salt River Project. The cities pump some groundwater from the aquifer. They also use highly treated wastewater – called recycled or reclaimed water – to irrigate turf and supply Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Cities’ water portfolios also include water they have stored underground for future use. These multiple sources mean you will not have to live a day without water as long as we remain vigilant in managing these sources and the infrastructure that moves the water.

How does water get to our homes and businesses? The infrastructure that transfers water from the canals to treatment plants and into homes or businesses is underground or behind walls. So is the system that removes and treats wastewater. Unlike other infrastructures, such as roads and sidewalks, residents can’t monitor the aging of treatment plants, water pipes and pumps. However, just like roads and bridges, these water and wastewater systems fall into disrepair and cost money to maintain and replace. If this infrastructure breaks down it can mean hours or longer without water delivered to homes and businesses. That’s when a day without water becomes reality and no one is left untouched, homes, schools, hospitals, power plants, aquariums, or manufacturers.

4th of July graphic

A recent article in Scientific American reported the nation suffers 240,000 water main breaks a year caused mainly by age. Estimates for upgrading the nation’s water infrastructure range from $682 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency to more than $1 trillion from the American Water Works Association.

The Phoenix Metro area is more fortunate than many older metropolitan areas. Many of our cities are younger with newer infrastructure or they are big enough and prosperous enough to fund well-functioning water departments. Water departments in most AMWUA cities are expected to pay for themselves, charging residents enough to pay for water resources plus operating and building expenses. The money you pay every month is used for two main purposes:

1. To cover increasing energy costs to transport and treat water and wastewater.

2. To build, maintain, repair and replace infrastructure to keep clean water flowing into homes and businesses and wastewater flowing out.

Without strong voices to advocate for investment in our water infrastructure, our water systems will remain out of sight and out of mind. There are places in the country, such as  Flint, Michigan, where people don’t have to imagine days without water. They have suffered through the ugly reality. The good news is city and private water utilities that invest in continual maintenance save money in the long run, protect the health of their customers, prevent disruptions in daily living, and sustain economic growth.

Community leaders, elected officials, business owners, residents and you need to advocate for continual support for our water systems. We need to plan and invest in our  water and wastewater systems today, so we may imagine a day without water, but never live through such a day.

For 47 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit

Defying Mother Nature: Creative Solutions To Avoid Shortages

By Warren Tenney

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently confirmed Arizona would not face a declared shortage of Colorado River water in 2017. This is good news but Arizona’s cities, farmers and industry leaders must continue to plan for an eventual shortage on the Colorado River, which could come as soon as 2018.

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior has the authority to declare shortages on the Colorado River. Under current agreements, this occurs when the Bureau of Reclamation projects that water levels of the Colorado River’s primary reservoir, Lake Mead, will be below an elevation of 1,075 feet in January of the following year. Lake Mead is currently right at 1,075 feet as the result of a sixteen year drought. Water levels are further exacerbated by the long-standing imbalance created from more water being taken from Lake Mead than what flows into it.

The primary reason we averted a shortage declaration in 2017 is because we did not rely solely on Mother Nature. This may sound audacious, but we avoided shortage in large part because Arizona and Central Arizona Project (CAP) led a successful effort to get CAP customers, the federal government, our neighboring Colorado River basin states, and Mexico to consider ways to slow Lake Mead’s declining water levels. The goal has been to keep water levels in Lake Mead from declining and jeopardizing the health of the Colorado River system. This is especially critical for Arizona because Central Arizona Project (CAP), the state’s main delivery system for Colorado River water, has what is called “junior priority” and must take the first cuts when a shortage is declared. This is why Valley cities are closely following what happens on the Colorado River and in Lake Mead.

CAP canal brings water to central Arizona. Photo: CAP

Here’s how Arizona has pushed back a shortage for now.  Over the last couple of years, CAP asked its agricultural and municipal customers to voluntarily leave water in Lake Mead. The target was to store 345,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead. This goal will be achieved by the end of this year. As part of this effort, the Cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale and Peoria agreed not to take their full allocations of Colorado River water.  Also, 11 agricultural irrigation districts in central Arizona agreed to reduce their use of Colorado River water.  These voluntary efforts have collectively conserved water in Lake Mead and helped prevent a shortage.

Efforts to conserve and intentionally create additional water in Lake Mead should continue and be expanded to slow Lake Mead’s falling water levels.  Municipalities are willing to continue to find ways to leave more water in Lake Mead. There are rules about how much water a state can intentionally save in Lake Mead. Despite this obstacle, Arizona should continue to work with its Colorado River partners to find more ways to protect Lake Mead and strengthen the overall health of the Colorado River. This includes finding creative arrangements going forward that provide incentives for cities to leave even more water in Lake Mead.

A look inside CAP’s control room. Photo: Philip A. Fortnam

Addressing water challenges is complicated with the devil always in the details. This will certainly be the case as we seek to strengthen our preparation for a shortage declaration.  Key to that preparation will be creativity and collaboration, which were central to our efforts to hold back a shortage for another year. 

Arizona leads the nation in creatively managing its water resources.  Among all the western states, Arizona is in the best position to weather the challenges faced by municipal water utilities. That’s because Arizona’s water professionals and leaders in industry, agriculture and municipalities have a long history of working together to solve water problems. Arizona’s responsibility is to continue to collaboratively and creatively tackle our current challenge of how best to protect Lake Mead and the health of the Colorado River so we can continue to use this important water source.

For 47 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit