Phoenix Launches Program To Help HOAs Save Water And Money

By Warren Tenney

Homeowners Associations (HOA) face a difficult balance trying to keep their common areas looking attractive while also keeping water bills under control. The City of Phoenix is the latest AMWUA member city to launch a program to help HOAs manage their water use.

Phoenix piloted its HOA Water Efficiency Program in August at the request of HOA boards eager to reduce what they pay for water. Seven HOAs participated in Phoenix’s pilot program.  Initially the program looks favorable but more time is needed to gather data and determine how many of those seven HOAs will cut their water bills and by how much.

This month Phoenix decided to make the program a regular service due to its potential to help HOAs irrigate more efficiently. Here’s how the program works.PHX HOA4

  • A conservation specialist starts by reviewing an HOA’s water-use history, which often means pulling data from multiple landscape meters. The specialist also uses Geographical Information System technology to measure the amount of grass and desert landscaping in an HOA’s common areas.
  • The specialist uses these measurements along with other data to calculate a “water budget” for the HOA’s landscaping. A water budget determines how much water an HOA needs each month – and where it needs it – to keep its trees, shrubs and grass thriving. In the Phoenix pilot program, water budgets found five of the seven HOAs were over watering their landscapes.
  • When necessary or by request, the specialist walks an HOA’s grounds to discuss irrigation with its board members, landscaper and property manager. The visit is tailored to fit the needs of the HOA and may include detecting irrigation leaks or testing the efficiency of sprinkler heads.
  • The specialist then presents findings to the HOA board, property manager and landscaper that include options for next steps.
  • The specialist continues to monitor water use at the HOA and provide updates to the board members.

Phoenix conservation specialists were ready to launch a sophisticated service quickly because they collaborated with colleagues from the AMWUA member cities. Several AMWUA cities, such as Glendale and Gilbert, have similar HOA programs. AMWUA member cities shared calculating methods, technology, audit forms and other information with Phoenix. This type of collaboration is common in the Phoenix area. Conservation staffs from each of the 10 AMWUA member cities have met regularly in the AMWUA offices for more than three decades to share expertise and to build water efficiency programs that benefit the region. (There is no other effort quite like it in the country.)PHX HOA2

Phoenix is working toward making the service available more quickly and efficiently. The City plans to develop an online tool that would allow HOAs to calculate their own water budgets and provide short instructive videos about how to look for weaknesses in their irrigation systems and implement changes.

For more information about Phoenix’s HOA Water Efficiency Program visit

For 46 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

Managing Arizona’s Water Supplies Is Everyone’s Issue

By Warren Tenney

February in the Valley of the Sun means spring weather, golf tournaments, rodeos and our State’s birthday on Valentine’s Day. February also means the State Capitol is abuzz with Legislators working overtime to pass hundreds of bills with the intent to improve our lives. Interest groups of all persuasions closely follow the bills moving through Legislative committees. The Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AWMUA) is no different.  

AMWUA has a long history of being engaged in bills that could impact how Arizona manages its water resources. Even if a bill doesn’t directly appear to affect our members—Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe—we’re keeping close tabs on it and weighing in as necessary.

This year, like previous sessions, Legislators have introduced water legislation that is directed at regions outside of Maricopa County.  Why should we be concerned?

1.  Water knows no boundaries. The AMWUA Board, comprised of elected officials from each of our member municipalities, is uniquely aware of the importance of local governance. AMWUA holds strongly that local water providers should have the ability to manage, plan, conserve, and acquire water resources for their customers that will promote economic development and quality of life. 

Our members also recognize that water is an irreplaceable resource that does not obey jurisdictional boundaries.  For this very reason, Arizona wisely decided to manage water as a State and through active management areas based on hydrologic regions through the adoption of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act. Knowing that managing water is most successfully accomplished on a regional basis is why the AMWUA cities are united to have one voice on water issues. From our experience, we know other regions of the State will benefit by working cooperatively on water issues.

2.  AMWUA supports the 1980 Groundwater Management Act. AMWUA has always been a supporter and protector of the 1980 Groundwater Management Code.  The Act has been critical to sustainable water management in the most populous areas of the state.   AMWUA will step forward and express concerns about proposed legislation that could weaken the State’s groundwater management.  Water legislation passed for one part of Arizona can have unintended consequences that could ripple out to other parts of the State.

 3.  Water is the future of our communities and economy. Long-term economic strength comes directly from actively planning and investing in water resources and infrastructure.  Sometimes, an interest group may feel they are being hindered in the short-term by water rules. Yet, water fuels our economy and sustains our communities. The State’s overall long-term economic health is directly linked to our success as stewards of our water, in any region of the State. 

4.  We’re all Arizonans. Arizona’s reputation is based on what we do collectively as a State.   Successful water management in the urban areas benefits rural Arizona, and likewise strong water management in rural areas benefits the metropolitan areas. 

Governor Ducey said it best when announcing his water initiative, “All Arizonans have a role and responsibility to play in the future of this great state, and a strong water supply will be central to that future.”

The Groundwater Management Act and the rules that require an assured water supply before development can be approved are core reasons Arizona has been able to avoid a water crisis.  As we see how our neighboring states struggle with water, we have been able to tout the strong position Arizona is in because of its water management policies. We are not in a similar crisis. Yet, we are at a critical juncture, where as a State we must demonstrate a willingness to continually strengthen water management throughout the State.

For 46 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



Keeping The Water Flowing

By Warren Tenney

A week ago Sunday, the day after moving to Phoenix, I woke up in my new place to find no water. I was reminded of how easy it is to take water for granted and to underappreciate the thousands of professionals working every hour of the week throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan Area to ensure water flows from our faucets. 

My lack of water ended up being a plumbing problem in my complex.  Yet, it was an interesting sign as I began my job with the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA).   With one week on the job and having no more water problems at my complex, I wanted to share what impresses me about AMWUA and why I am excited to be a part of it. 

Central Arizona Project Photo by Philip A. Fortnam

AMWUA Executive Director Warren Tenney

First, the Valley of the Sun is fortunate to have its ten largest cities working together on water issues as members of AMWUA.  We all have a reliable, safe water supply in our desert homes because each city recognizes the benefits of cooperation and of speaking in one voice about water issues. Through planning and investing in our water resources and infrastructure, our Valley is a vibrant and sustainable place for us to live.

Second, the leaders of each municipality know that water is the lifeblood of this region.  The AMWUA Board is comprised of elected officials from each member city, which means our municipal leaders are actively engaged in water issues.  They are supported by city administrators and water professionals in each city and are working daily to ensure water flows to every customer every hour of the year.  AMWUA creates a forum for elected officials, administrators, and water professionals to address and find solutions to water challenges as they arise.

Third, the AMWUA cities – Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Phoenix, Peoria, Scottsdale, Tempe – are leaders in using water efficiently.  The efforts that began in the 1980s and continue today have had a significant impact. For example, per capita residential water use in the City of Phoenix has fallen roughly 30 percent over the last twenty years.  Even with the addition of 360,000 new residents, the city’s customers are using less water than in 1996.  Living in an arid climate, we know the importance of using water efficiently, such as ways to use less water and to recycle our used water.  Being wise stewards of our water is imperative for leaving a thriving Arizona to future generations. 

Fourth, collaboration among AMWUA members is obviously important, however, collaboration among all various water interests is critical for Arizona.  Throughout our history, Arizona has shown by collectively pulling together various interests, crisis does not have to be part of our water vocabulary.  This cooperation will be all the more important moving forward.  AMWUA is committed to working with the Legislature, Arizona Department of Water Resources, Central Arizona Project, Salt River Project and all other interests to protect and augment our water resources and infrastructure.  

Finally, AMWUA is part of why Arizona has done better than any other Western State in managing its water.  Water fuels our economy.  Sound water management has ensured our successes as a State and will continue to guarantee our future accomplishments. We are prepared for today, but Arizona is at a critical juncture for our water future and we must remain vigilant when it comes to our water.   AMWUA is committed to being a part of the solutions. 

The AMWUA cities and the rest of Arizona will always have water if we actively continue to plan and invest in our water resources.

For 46 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

100 AMWUA Blog Posts: The Top Five

The AMWUA Blog marked 100 posts last week. We launched the weekly blog in March 2015 with a post that introduced readers to Tres Rios. This wetlands project on the west edge of Phoenix is home to herons, beavers and bobcats. While the birds and birdwatchers may think the City of Phoenix built it for them, these wetlands also remove nitrogen from wastewater and help to control flooding.

Citizens who understand water, where it comes from and how it reaches their homes are more likely to take actions that will help ensure a sustainable supply for the future. It’s all part of living in a desert city. And that brings us to the three goals we had when we started the weekly AMWUA Blog.

  • Make it Readable: Take the mystery out of complex issues about water management, water policy and water conservation.
  • Make it Reliable: Use facts, numbers or statistics from credible sources and credible research so the right information gets to our readers.
  • Make it Useful: Let readers know what it takes to deliver water to their faucets and about helpful city services. Explain to readers how to conserve water and lower their water bills, how to select, install and maintain desert landscaping, and provide a little history on water policy, how it is changing – or how it needs to change.

Before we start on our next 100, we were curious about the AMWUA Blog posts that were most popular with our readers. Here are the top five most viewed posts.

No.  5: Recycling: Paper, Plastic, And Now Water This tells us we have readers who are eager to understand – and, perhaps, are a little perplexed – about how cities treat and re-use wastewater. The phrase “toilet to tap” often appears in stories about recycling wastewater. While the catchy phrase is irresistible to headline writers, it minimizes an important resource.  That’s why we wrote this primer on how cities treat and use wastewater.  

 No. 4: CAP: Tracking The Flow Of Colorado River Water To Your City Our readers are alert to possible shortages of Colorado River water and want to know more. The way Colorado River water reaches the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas is a vague concept for many Arizona residents and prone to misconceptions. That’s why we wrote this question-and-answer explanation of the system that brings the distant river water to your tap.

No. 3: Cities Store Water To Keep Taps Flowing Come (No) Rain Or Shine The popularity of this wonky post surprised us. It explains the different ways AMWUA member cities store water underground for the future. It explains such techniques as recharge basins, vadose zone wells, and injection wells. Ok, they are great phrases to use to impress your friends, but this post demonstrates that the cities began planning and investing decades ago to ensure reliable supplies for tomorrow. 

No. 2: Drought Smart: 6 Things You Can Learn About Water In 6 Minutes For quick, solid answers, this post offers six links to six things you can learn in six minutes that make you smarter about the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area’s water supply. It helps you inform others, take action, or simply sleep better.

No. 1: Arizona Isn’t California: Why We Are Better Prepared For Drought This post explains why Arizona’s populated areas don’t need California’s draconian measures to survive drought. Arizona leaders have had the foresight to make tough decisions to prevent a water crisis. Like most AMWUA Blog posts, this one cautions Arizonans that we are not home free. As desert dwellers, we never will be. We must follow the example of those who led the way by continuing to make difficult choices to ensure water security for our future needs.

Well, there you have it. The most viewed AMWUA Blog posts out of our first 100. Next week you’ll meet Warren Tenney, our new Executive Director, who kicks off our next 100.

For 46 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

Water: In Praise Of Cities

By Kathleen Ferris

Flint, Michigan has been on my mind a lot lately.

Like so many others, I am outraged by the ineptitude that sent lead-poisoned water coursing through the city’s water system and through its citizens and children. This negligence, which appears to go all the way up to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, starts with a cost-cutting move by a state-appointed emergency manager to switch Flint’s drinking water source from Lake Huron to the more polluted Flint River.


This is Kathleen Ferris’ 100th AMWUA Blog post and her last before stepping down as Executive Director.

The malfeasance continues with the failure to add needed corrosion-control chemicals to the much harder and more corrosive Flint River water (which would have cost a mere $50,000) to prevent dangerous metals from leaching from old pipes.  And it ends with neurotoxic levels of lead being consumed by Flint residents, 40 percent of whom live in poverty. 

Except it doesn’t really end there because children exposed to these levels of lead in their water will experience life-long disabilities. 

People, this is America, not some third-world country.

Like the air we breathe, we cannot survive without water.  That is why those responsible for providing water to homes and businesses must guarantee their customers a clean, safe and reliable water supply. 

As the Flint fiasco demonstrates, government’s influence over water is necessary and profound.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey, public water systems (cities and other municipalities) serve about 86 percent of the country’s population.  The horror of Flint serves as a cautionary reminder that each municipality has unique sources of water, with individual issues and needs.  That’s why local control of water systems is essential. 

A lot goes into delivering clean, safe and reliable water day in and day out.  The biggest cost is infrastructure, including treatment plants that ensure our water is safe for drinking, and the miles and miles of pipes that take it to customers.  As cities age, so does their infrastructure.  The disastrous situation in Flint was, in fact, precipitated by a decision to construct a pipeline from Flint to a new regional water system.  In most cases, aging systems don’t result in lead poisoning, but they do result in the waste of our precious water and in disruptions to the quality service and safety we demand.  Ultimately, the cost of replacing systems is greater than the cost of maintaining them in the first place.  That’s why cities must continue to invest in their water systems and must have the right and ability to do so.

As a country, we generally take for granted the remarkable job that most cities do in meeting the obligations to deliver safe, reliable water.  We turn on the tap and expect water to flow.  We expect to be able to drink it without worrying about its quality.  And we expect it to be reasonably priced. 

Which brings me from Michigan back to Arizona and the cities I’ve had the privilege of serving for nearly three decades.  

In the past two years, I’ve written here about the efforts of the AMWUA cities to provide quality service to their customers.  AMWUA city water managers continually test and monitor water quality.  They plan for growth and acquire new water supplies as necessary.  They store unused river water and treated wastewater underground to increase the long-term reliability of our water supplies.  In the process, they often create beautiful riparian areas that are enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike.  They develop conservation programs that include rebates for removing turf and for switching to more efficient appliances.  They educate their citizens on wise water use and offer classes on low-water-use landscaping.  They engage in efforts to improve state water laws to ensure sustainable water supplies for Arizona’s future.  They set rates for water that are expected to be high enough to prevent waste, but still make certain that this life sustaining liquid is affordable to every citizen.

All of this is possible only because of the dedication and professionalism of our cities’ water departments whose employees would never tolerate a Flint, Michigan on their watch.  As I step aside as AMWUA’s Executive Director, I thank them for their commitment.  The next time you drink a glass of water, you should, too. 

For 46 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