At Stake: Securing Your Tree’s Future

By Warren Tenney

If you’re working to make your landscape more water efficient, don’t forget to add one of many drought-tolerant trees that thrive in the Metro Phoenix area. Trees can raise property value, save energy by shading walls and windows, and make great gifts to mark special occasions. Once established, drought-tolerant trees need minimal care and only occasional deep watering at the drip line. Proper staking can protect your investment and help a new tree grow tough enough to withstand rain and wind, even during Arizona’s monsoon season.

A new drought-tolerant tree for your yard or business also is a gift to the urban environment. Trees help to mitigate the heat island, reduce ground temperatures in the evening, and remove pollutants from the air. Trees are so important that the City of Phoenix is committed to expanding its urban forest from a canopy that now covers 9-12 percent of the city to 25 percent coverage by 2030.

A new tree straight from the nursery is often top heavy, with a canopy larger than its small ball of roots. Staking gives a tree the support it needs until its roots and trunk strengthen and expand. Knowing some of the dos and don’ts about staking from the experts can save you money and produce a healthier and prettier tree.

Here’s what not to do: A tree usually comes from the nursery with a stake tied close to the trunk. That’s a temporary stake and should be removed before planting. Once a tree is planted it’s not a good idea to attach a stake close to its trunk. Here are some of the reasons why.IMG_4090

  • The tree cannot sway with the wind, so its roots spread more slowly leaving the tree poorly anchored in the ground. It also will suffer more wind damage.
  • The trunk often grows wider near the top and tapers near the bottom, just the opposite of what is needed to keep the tree anchored in a storm.
  • The tree’s bark is prone to damage.
  • The stake shades part of the tree’s trunk making it more likely the tree will grow at a tilt.

Here’s what to do: Not every tree needs to be staked. Stake a newly planted tree if it cannot stand on its own or if it is likely to be knocked out of the ground by wind, kids, dogs or other forces. Here are some basics to know before you stake a tree.Good Stake

  • Use two 2-inch wooden poles and anchor them in the ground about 2 feet deep. The stakes should be short enough to avoid extending into the canopy.
  • Place the stakes in undisturbed soil at least 6 inches from the trunk so they don’t damage the tree’s young roots.
  • Use smooth and broad material to fasten the trunk to the stakes so it doesn’t harm the bark. Landscapers often use a heavy wire covered with a piece of soft garden hose where the wire touches the tree. Any material made from elastic webbing or garden tape, cloth, or rubber will do for smaller trees.
  • Allow the trunk to move slightly within the tie. Allowing the tree to move with the wind creates a dense wood and stronger trunk.
  • Remove the stakes on a new tree in about a year. To protect the tree roots, remove the entire stake below ground and fill with dirt.

Once a tree is staked, don’t be eager to prune it unless some branches are dead or badly damaged. The lower branches on a new tree help the tree grow a larger trunk and protect it from sunburn.

If a new tree is on your agenda, it’s best to prepare before you visit the nursery. AMWUA’s online guide Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert offers details about 44 drought-tolerant trees, including mature height and width, description of flowers, and amount of shedding to expect. Some AMWUA member cities cultivate demonstration gardens you can visit for free and see mature, drought-tolerant trees. The City of Glendale Tree Trail offers great information about planting and maintaining drought-tolerant trees.  

AMWUA member cities also are offering dozens of free landscape workshops on a wide variety of topics right now. For example, the City of Chandler is presenting a workshop called “Save Your Tree From Storm Damage” at 6:30 p.m. May 10 at Chandler City Hall, 175 S. Arizona Ave. The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension has a publication available online (pdf) all about planting and staking trees in desert landscapes.

One last tip: You may want to keep those stakes after you remove them from your tree. One successful desert tree usually leads to another.

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


Beyond The Mirage: Water Science For The Video Generation

By Warren Tenney

A small team of filmmakers, computer experts, educators and scientists at the University of Arizona is convinced that many people – including young people – are eager to learn about serious and complex subjects of great importance.

The problem: Where to find accurate and current information in an engaging format. The usual sources – newspapers, news magazines and educational television – are having trouble adapting to the digital age and drawing younger audiences.

The solution: Develop a new and stimulating process that will entice people of all ages to seek and find accurate information on their own and then share it on social media.

The UA team set out to test its theory using the serious and complex subject of water, in particular water in Arizona and the Southwest. Team members built an easy-to-use interactive website called Beyond the Mirage that allows each user to create a documentary about water. Here’s how it works:Beyond Mirage 1

  1. The site contains more than 250 high-quality video clips about water, including interviews, graphics and landscapes.
  2. Some video clips offer general information, such as population growth. Others clips are related to topics, such as drought, pumping groundwater, irrigating crops or Colorado River supplies. Scientists have vetted each clip for accuracy.
  3. Users view the clips available on the website by topic, select the ones they want and string them together in any order they choose (this is called “stacking”) to create their documentary.
  4. Then users add a title and share their mini-documentaries on their websites and social media.

Beyond Mirage 2

If the experiment works, Beyond the Mirage will create an accessible online library of clear, engaging, accurate documentaries that inform the people who create, view and share them. The Beyond the Mirage project also includes a full-length documentary that airs 10 p.m. May 16 on KAET 8.

The three-year effort cost about $300,000. Beyond the Mirage received $100,000 and a vote of confidence a year ago when it was chosen as the first recipient of the New Arizona Prize: Water Consciousness Challenge. The money made it possible for the team to introduce Beyond the Mirage to the public in March.

This month middle school students in five Phoenix Metropolitan area classrooms will give the Beyond the Mirage website a test run as a teaching tool. The students will expand their knowledge by becoming film directors. They will build mini-documentaries from the Beyond the Mirage website as part of UA’s Arizona Project WET’s water science curriculum. On April 22, Earth Day, students will judge each other’s creations. On May 6, the top two mini-docs from each school, a total of 10, will be posted on Arizona Project WET’s Facebook page. You can vote for your favorites by visiting APW’s Facebook page from May 9 – 11. Voting is open to everyone. Five “Oscar” awards will be presented in May.

Now it’s your turn to learn more about water creatively by building your own documentary. Beyond the Mirage is designed for the least tech-savvy among us. So start stacking to amaze your boss, your kids or your teachers. You may amaze yourself.

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

Robots And Vacuum Trucks: Learn What It Takes To Operate A Water System

By Warren Tenney

The City of Scottsdale wants to create more water wonks. Scottsdale Water is giving 20 residents an opportunity to explore the science, engineering and labor it takes to keep water running day and night to and from homes and businesses. The City’s inaugural six-week Scottsdale Water Citizens Academy began March 30.

Scottsdale Water is taking a lesson from popular police and fire academies by giving customers an inside look at operating a water system. In turn, the City hopes customers will better understand the value they gain from what they pay for water.

Classes are two hours each Wednesday evening. Participants meet the people who clean and recycle their water every day. The course includes presentations, tours, demonstrations and a few hands-on science experiments. Here are the tours that are part of the course.Scottsdale1

  • The CAP Water Treatment Plant is Scottsdale Water’s largest drinking water treatment plant. It processes up to 70 million gallons of drinking water every day.
  • The Central Groundwater Treatment Facility is cleaning up a Superfund site, which is a polluted location that requires long-term cleanup of contaminants and is overseen by State and Federal agencies. The facility uses what is called an “air-stripping process” to clean groundwater from the North Indian Bend Wash Superfund site. The water is cleaned to exceed federal drinking water standards.
  • The Water Quality Laboratory is one of the most advanced municipal water laboratories in Arizona. Lab employees make sure the water that reaches customers meets or exceeds local, state and federal drinking water standards.  They also test for unregulated contaminants to remain ahead of future regulations.
  • The Advanced Water Treatment Facility can turn wastewater into ultrapure recycled water at the rate of 20 million gallons per day. The water produced is used to irrigate golf courses and to store underground for the future. The WateReuse Research Foundation and the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence have called the facility one of the world’s most innovative water purification projects.

Yes, there is more. Participants will see a piece of exposed underground infrastructure as an example of the system that operates 24/7 under our feet. The demonstration site includes an unearthed water main with a line leading to a fire hydrant and a service line that leads to a home’s water meter. Scottsdale Water employees will show participants how a water main is fixed and will disassemble a water meter to demonstrate how it works and how the City reads it. Demonstrations also include one of the robots that carry cameras into sewer lines for routine inspections and a vacuum truck that helps to keep everything tidy while work is being done.Scottsdale2

Sound interesting? Then you’ll want to watch the Scottsdale Water website for updates about next year’s application. Attending the course would certainly add to your water wonk credentials. At the least, it could lessen the panic surrounding your student’s next annual science project.

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

Strengthen, Not Weaken, Water Management in Arizona

By Warren Tenney

Sound long-term water management is vital to ensure that Arizona has a strong economy both in urban and rural parts of the State. This is why the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) opposes SB1400 and SB1268 from becoming law.

Both bills attempt to address a legal challenge that is keeping a 7,000-home development in the City of Sierra Vista from proceeding. Rather than let the legal process unfold over the next year, the State Legislature was asked to make a quick fix that dismantles the adequate water supply rules adopted by Cochise County and any other county.

AMWUA recognizes that the 1980 Groundwater Management Act and the Assured Water Supply Rules created a water management foundation for economic growth in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. The Act and Rules regulate the most heavily populated areas of the State, requiring those areas to reduce groundwater pumping, use renewable water supplies, conserve and reuse water, and demonstrate a 100-year assured water supply before new development is approved.  

Knowing that unregulated, less populated counties could be facing water challenges in coming years, the Legislature wisely passed legislation in 2007 that gave counties the opportunity to adopt 100-year adequate water supply rules. These rules protect existing communities by ensuring there are adequate, reliable long-term water supplies to support growth. Both Cochise and Yuma counties voted unanimously to put in place these rules.

SB1400 would make those rules null and void five years after adoption and require a unanimous vote to reestablish the rules. SB1268 would allow cities within these counties to opt out of the adequate water supply rules. Both bills are a step backward in the effort to strengthen water management in rural Arizona. These bills do not just affect rural Arizona but the State as a whole, which will be seen as chipping away at Arizona’s overall success in managing its water.

Arizona’s economy is inseparably linked to water. The enactment of these bills would raise questions about Arizona’s commitment to the effective management of water supplies. This would create uncertainty for homeowners, businesses, and investors regarding the State’s long-term commitment to water policies that promote sustained economic growth.

The AMWUA Board, comprised of elected officials from Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe, have taken a firm position against SB1268 and SB1400. These leaders recognize that strong, sensible wateroutlet management policies are the foundation of their local economies, creating an environment of certainty and resiliency. As elected officials, the AMWUA Board understands 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. Yet, Arizona has been wise to manage water as a State through regional oversight since water does not obey jurisdictional boundaries. For these reasons, the AMWUA Board does not want to see water management weakened anywhere in Arizona. We want to avoid the potential ripple effect and unintended consequences these bills could have for the State as a whole.

At a time of prolonged drought and looming shortage on the Colorado River, SB1268 and SB1400 begin to disassemble the long-term planning and policies that have helped Arizona avoid a California-like water crisis.

The benefits of building one housing development in Cochise County are not worth weakening water laws that fuel our long-term economic growth and our national reputation as a state that effectively manages water resources in the arid West. Arizona’s overall long-term economic health is directly linked to our success as stewards of our water, in any region of the State. 

As Governor Ducey said about 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.”

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