Goodyear: Fixing A Leak Means Free Baseball Tickets

By Kathleen Ferris

Fix a Leak Week is a big deal around here. This year it’s even bigger for City of Goodyear baseball fans.

Fix a Leak Week is a funny name for a serious campaign. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense Program started the campaign five years ago after researchers revealed some startling data: An average household loses 10,000 gallons of water every year due to leaks.

Goodyear Ballpark helps to spread the message to save water.

Goodyear Ballpark encourages fans to Fix a Leak and save water.

A world always looking for fresh water supplies can’t afford such neglect. So, Fix a Leak Week (March16 to March 22) activities are designed to encourage families to fix that running toilet, the sprinkler head that creates a puddle every time it runs, or the drip line that gushes instead of drips.

This year, Fix a Leak Week is getting an early start in Goodyear. Households that reduce the amount of water they use by fixing a leak (or taking shorter showers or replacing turf with desert landscaping) get free spring training baseball tickets. Here’s how it works.

  • Check your water bill. If you use less water this January or February than you did in January and February of 2014, you win. About 2,000 households already qualified in January.
  • You don’t have to do the math. If you’ve succeeded, you will be notified in one of two ways. City of Goodyear water customers just have to look at their bill. There will be a “You Fixed a Leak!” message stamped in the center with directions to redeem your tickets inside the envelope. If you are a Liberty Utilities customer, you’ll get a special letter in the mail.
  • Simply take your water bill or letter to the Goodyear Ballpark ticket office. You will receive two complimentary tickets to a Spring Training game during Fix a Leak Week, March 16 through March 22.Print

But wait, there’s more. The cities of Goodyear and Avondale will have promotional tables at three out of seven game days during Fix a Leak Week. Bring your water bill to these tables and there will be a gift for you.

Even if you don’t have a winning water bill, it will be worth a visit to the tables. You can pick up a hard copy of the AMWUA cities’ Smart Home Water Guide. It is a step-by-step guide to finding and fixing obvious, and not so obvious, leaks in your home and yard.

Goodyear Ballpark and its Cleveland and Cincinnati teams are into Fix a Leak Week. During the entire month of March the stadium’s scoreboard will flash messages reminding fans to fix a leak. The stadium also will promote the AMWUA cities’ annual Fix A Leak One For Water 4-Mile Race and Family Fun Festival on March 21 in Peoria. The rather-famous Leaky “Loo” McFlapper, a 6-foot running toilet, will lead the race. There will be prizes, food, music and lots of help to fix a leak.

About half the fans who attend Goodyear Ballpark games are from Goodyear and the remainder come from all over the Valley, the state, and the country. So Goodyear and the Goodyear Ballpark are helping to spread the word around the country.

If you live in Goodyear, hurry, it’s time for a plan to fix a leak, reduce water use now, save some money and get two free tickets to spring ball. If you’re not a baseball fan, those two tickets will be a great way to get winter visitors out of the house for a few hours. Play Ball.

For 45 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 www.amwua.org.

Arizona Needs a Strong, Well-Funded Water Department

“In the depths of the Great Recession, the hardest hit state agency was the Department of Water Resources. A wealth of institutional knowledge, vital to maintaining Arizona’s relative position with other states in competition for precious water supplies, was lost. . . . Lawmakers need to take this critical agency more seriously. And that means with a wider-open pocketbook.”

– Arizona Republic,  January 3, 2015

By Kathleen Ferris

It is time for the business community, all water interests and anyone who cares about Arizona to add their voices to the chorus calling for increased state funding for the Department of Water Resources. The reason is simple. The economy.

Water is essential for every aspect of our economy—agricultural production, copper mining, power generation, attracting industries with high paying jobs, and meeting the needs of homes, schools, hotels and hospitals. Without sustainable water supplies, our economic growth will come to a screeching halt. The Department of Water Resources is the state agency charged with helping to ensure that catastrophe does not happen.

The Arizona legislature has given the Department the mandate to prosecute and defend Arizona’s rights to Colorado River water, develop and implement plans to prevent depletion of critical groundwater supplies, determine whether new subdivisions have a 100-year assured water supply, ensure that new groundwater wells do not impact other pumpers, and permit projects to recharge our groundwater supplies. The Department is also supposed to provide planning assistance, especially to rural areas, whose water supplies are far less reliable than the major metropolitan areas. On top of all this, the Department is the major gatherer of data on stream flows and groundwater levels, so critical to understanding our current water situation and to plan for shortages.

In 2008, the Department received over $22 million from the state’s coffers. By 2014, that funding had dropped to about $12 million, and the Department’s staff had been slashed by 40 percent. Lack of funding is seriously hampering the Department’s ability to do its job. And ultimately that will affect all of us. Consider the following:

  •  The Department is responsible for critical negotiations with the other Colorado River Basin states, and for working on important international water issues with Mexico. To be effective on our behalf, it needs adequate staffing for research, along with the manpower necessary when important deliberations are occurring simultaneously on these and other top-level issues. If we shortchange the Department, we shortchange ourselves.
  • The 1980 Groundwater Management Act requires the Department to develop a series of management plans to reduce the major metropolitan areas’ reliance on groundwater, thereby protecting our groundwater resources for emergencies. The fourth management plans—for the period 2010 to 2020—were supposed to be proposed by January 1, 2008. But the Department has yet to propose management plans for the Phoenix, Pinal and Tucson areas because 3 people are trying to do the work that used to be done by 40.
  • Water managers report that approval times for permits for new wells and underground storage projects are nearly twice what they once were.
  • Many rural areas of the state are seeing the alarming depletion of the their groundwater supplies, but the Department has limited ability to help local leaders find solutions to their water supply problems.
  • The Department is unable to compete in the salary market, restricting its ability to fill key positions and retain talent. Dedicated employees shoulder too great a burden.

Arizona’s daily paper of record is not alone in calling for more funding for the Department of Water Resources. Working with a broad range of water experts, the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy has prioritized increased funding for the Department as an action item to be tackled in 2015. Former Senator Jon Kyl, a long-time expert on water matters, understands the critical need for an adequately funded Department.

Last December, the AMWUA Board of Directors sent a letter to Governor Ducey requesting his support for increased general fund appropriations for the Department.

The Department does a remarkable job with inadequate resources, but it is stretched to the breaking point. It is time for the state to re-invest in this crucially important agency, which is tasked with defending and managing our most precious resource.   This is a small price to pay for our continued economic prosperity, and is even more essential in this time of drought. When it comes to water, Arizona cannot afford to gamble with its future.

For 45 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 www.amwua.org.

 

Gilbert Transforms Wastewater Storage Into Wetlands Retreat

By Kathleen Ferris

In 1986, the Town of Gilbert began storing treated wastewater in a pond at Cooper and Elliot roads. It did not surprise town officials that the pond attracted birds, but they were surprised by how many people the birds attracted. Unprepared for birdwatchers, the town fenced the pond.

The lesson wasn’t lost on Gilbert officials. If a place to watch birds in the middle of town made residents happy, why not turn a public works storage plant into an amenity. The town grew along with the idea. When Gilbert expanded its wastewater storage to a second site,  there were no plans for fences.

Gilbert's Riparian Preserve at the Water Ranch

Gilbert’s Riparian Preserve at the Water Ranch

By 1999, the second site for wastewater storage had grown into a 110-acre wildlife habitat called Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch at Guadalupe and Greenfield roads. The Water Ranch also includes a library, a fishing lake, a park, a fire station and Gilbert’s drinking water treatment plant.

The Riparian Preserve attracts more than 200 species of birds and thousands of visitors annually. Gilbert doesn’t count the number of visitors but goes through about 8,000 preserve maps each year. That doesn’t include regulars who no longer need maps. About 2,000 students visit the park to enhance their classroom work annually. Visitors come with strollers and kids, cameras and binoculars to search for wildlife, sit quietly or walk.

Inside the preserve, there are 4.5 miles of hiking and horse trails lined with dense vegetation and bubbling streams that attract wildlife. The trails wend among seven 10-acre storage ponds, most often called recharge basins, that mimic wetlands.

These recharge basins play a key role in the town’s commitment to use 100 percent of its treated wastewater, also called reclaimed water. When Valley cities talk about “managing” water, recharge basins are part of most cities’ plans to provide a secure water supply for their residents and businesses. The basins hold the water and allow it to percolate into the ground where it can be pumped out later.

Here are several ways Gilbert uses wastewater sent to its recharge basins in the Riparian Preserve.

  • To replace the small amount of groundwater Gilbert needs to pump periodically when customer water demand is high, such as in mid summer. Replacing the groundwater is required under Arizona’s 1980 Groundwater Management Act.
  • To store water to use in times of severe shortages of surface water such as Colorado or Salt river  water.  Groundwater levels under the Water Ranch have risen 30 feet in the last 15 years because of the Riparian Preserve’s recharge basins.
  • To store reclaimed water for Gilbert customers who use it to irrigate landscaping instead of using precious and expensive drinking water. These customers include Home Owners Associations and golf courses. Their need for water fluctuates, usually increasing in the summer.
  • To save any excess water from the town’s renewable surface supplies from the Colorado and Salt rivers so it is ready to be delivered when needed.

The basins are drained periodically, maintaining small ponds for birds and some fish. Draining the basins allow a tractor to turn over a foot or two of the dirt at the bottom of the basin. This prevents the weight of the water from compacting the soil and makes it easier for the soil to absorb the water.

The Riparian Preserve is serving its utilitarian purpose, but also serves as an urban retreat for residents and recreates habitat that is disappearing. Farms fields and developments have been built over many natural wetlands or riparian areas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports there are about 1,000 manmade wetlands operating nationwide, most in the southwest where reclaiming wastewater is a top priority.

Gilbert’s preserve has 14 different habitat areas that mimic low and high desert wildlife habitats and gardens designed to draw specific wildlife, such as butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

The preserve has a colorful play area, plenty of picnic shelters and benches, a small campground, and the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory, which is open on Friday and Saturday nights. Gilbert preserve staff members also offer monthly observatory programs and preserve tours.

One of the most important missions of Gilbert’s Riparian Preserve is to educate. It is a great place to take the kids and remind them that we’re saving water for drinking and bathing and growing industries and also for a variety of wild reasons.

For 45 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 www.amwua.org.

Want To Reuse Laundry Water In Your Yard? Tempe Is Ready To Help

By Kathleen Ferris

Each year an average family in the City of Tempe uses about 30,000 gallons of drinking water to wash clothes. Tempe is the first city in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area to help homeowners pay to reroute their laundry water and reuse it to irrigate trees, lawns, and plants.

Water from your washing machine and your shower or bathtub is called greywater (also called graywater and gray water, if you’re going to search online). It is the only wastewater draining from your house that the state allows to be diverted and reused to water landscaping. Greywater policies vary from state to state. Arizona’s rules make it easy for homeowners to reuse their greywater, and they are considered a model for other states.

Photo: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality

Photo: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality

Laundry and shower water is called greywater to distinguish it from blackwater. Blackwater is a term used to describe water draining from your kitchen sink, dishwasher and toilet. The state prohibits homeowners from reusing it. Untreated blackwater is contaminated with organic matter and can contain viruses and pathogens, which creates a health hazard if spread around your yard.

Valley cities treat both blackwater and greywater from homes and businesses to high standards on an industrial scale. This highly treated wastewater is reused to cool power plants and for irrigation, fishing ponds and wetlands, and groundwater recharge. In the Phoenix area, nearly 100 percent of water discharged into municipal sewer systems is reclaimed and put to beneficial uses.

Saving greywater from a shower or tub isn’t practical in existing Arizona homes. Most plumbing is under the foundation slab making it an expensive retrofit. A better idea is to consider a greywater reuse system before you build a home.

Reusing laundry water is easier and less expensive. Tempe will pay you half the cost of constructing a greywater irrigation system, up to $200. Construction usually involves drilling a hole through the wall near your washing machine, inserting a sleeve to create a seal around the hole, and threading a second and longer hose from your clothes washer through the hole so that it empties outside.

If you decide to store the greywater in a plastic barrel, the water needs to be used quickly, particularly in the summer. Standing water attracts mosquitoes and rodents, so it must be covered with at least a screen. It can also get smelly and slimy within days. It’s often less work to construct a free-flowing system that will allow the greywater to directly irrigate a couple trees or your lawn.

Of course, this home improvement project comes with some precautions. Here are a few.

  • Don’t plan to divert your laundry water if you wash diapers or clothes spotted with industrial oils or grease. It is as unsafe as blackwater.
  • Don’t plan to use greywater on your vegetable garden. The state prohibits greywater irrigation of food crops, except citrus and nut trees.
  • Most laundry products found in greywater will not harm most plants. Some laundry products are better than others. The University of Arizona and Tucson Water has information (pdf) about what to look for in your detergent.
  • Greywater is fine for watering lawns and salt-tolerant plants, such as oleanders, palm trees, ornamental shrubs and native plants. Avoid fussy plants that are not drought tolerant, such as hibiscus.

Tempe’s goal is to encourage 25 homeowners to take advantage of its Greywater Harvesting Rebate this year. That would save about 750,000 gallons of drinking water that would be used to water landscaping.

Need a little guidance? You can get hands-on instructions about constructing a greywater system at a May 16 Tempe workshop.

There is more information about greywater reuse and the rebate on the Tempe Water Conservation website. The Water Conservation Alliance of Southern Arizona also has a useful fact sheet about using greywater for irrigation. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has a pamphlet that describes how greywater can be used safely.

For 45 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 www.amwua.org.