Pure Brew: Campaign Promotes Future Source Of Drinking Water

By Warren Tenney

A couple dozen Arizona craft breweries will bring their beers to Phoenix in September to vie for a professional judge’s choice award and a people’s choice award. Here’s why this particular beer competition is big news: The competing brewers are making their beers with purified recycled wastewater for the 32nd Annual WaterReuse Symposium being held in Phoenix. The competition is the culmination of a statewide traveling campaign called the Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge created by a Pima County Southwest Water Campus partnership. The campaign’s goal is to help people understand and trust the technology that creates purified recycled water, a renewable source of future drinking water.

Recycling wastewater is nothing new. AMWUA member cities put virtually all of their wastewater to beneficial use. Since 1973, much of the recycled water has been sent to cool the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, a power station southwest of Phoenix that provides energy for 4 million people in four states. Cities use recycled water to create fishing lakes, restore or construct riparian areas, and irrigate large turf areas, such as parks and HOA common areas. Cities also store recycled water underground for future use. The Arizona Department of Environment Quality sets the standards for recycled water and cities treat recycled wastewater to A+ quality, which means it is treated and disinfected until there are no detectable disease-causing bacteria.

Pure Brew Truck

There is now technology to clean A+ wastewater beyond drinking water standards. This water is called purified water. It is recycled water that is further treated using ultra filtration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet disinfection with advanced oxidation, activated carbon filtration and chlorine disinfection. Professionals view purified water as an important part of solving drinking water shortages in the future, but it has one major problem standing in its way: public perception. Imagining where the water originated is a hurdle many people find difficult to overcome.

The Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge was designed to help people get over that hurdle. The project was created by a partnership that includes Pima County Southwest Water Campus, a team of water professionals, University of Arizona scientists, local municipalities, including Tucson Water and the Town of Marana, and consulting organizations. In November 2016, the concept won the $250,000 New Arizona Prize competition and its $2,500 people’s choice award. The project received an additional $50,000 in assistance from the WaterNow Alliance and about $50,000 in donated time and equipment.

Team members who created the Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge knew it wasn’t enough to simply tell people purified water was safe and tasted good, they had to show people. The idea of a beer contest was appealing but the Arizona team was looking for something more ambitious, something that would reach a wider audience and showcase the technology that produces purified water. The partnership decided to build the technology used to process purified water inside a semi-trailer truck. The truck has traveled around the state and used local water professionals to explain to visitors how the technology works. The truck includes looping videos explaining the basics of Arizona water, such as where drinking water comes from and how it’s treated.

Pure Brew Open Truck

The truck travels to festivals and events, such as the Arizona Great Outdoor Festival in Flagstaff. People who visit the truck are asked to fill out a 15-question survey about their perception of purified recycled wastewater. So far, the majority of the 1,300 surveys completed show people are open to the idea of drinking purified water – but are more enthusiastic about drinking beer made from purified water.

The Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge project included recruiting small and large independent craft breweries to compete in a taste challenge using beers brewed with purified water processed in the truck. The team has worked closely with the Arizona Craft Brewer’s Guild and participating breweries come from across the state, including the cities of Yuma, Sedona, Flagstaff, Oak Creek, Tucson and Phoenix. In July, the truck received its permit to create purified water from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and was hooking up to a wastewater treatment plant and purifying water for participating brewers. The team also was filling a tank with purified water to take to a bottling company to have samples ready to hand out to visitors at the campaign’s next stops and at the week-long WaterReuse Symposium.

It’s not really about the beer created from this campaign. It’s about introducing Arizona residents to the technology that can help augment future water supplies. Once the craft brew challenge is completed the team will have just enough money left to take the truck to a half-dozen more festivals through December. The team is looking for funding to keep the Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge campaign on the road in 2018.

For 48 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.

5 Trees To Shade Your Desert Home

By Warren Tenney

It’s the time of year when many homeowners are tired of the glare from their windows and are thinking about adding more shade to their yards. The beautiful combination of cactus, succulents and desert-adapted flowering shrubs are unique to our communities, but trees give height and width to a landscape. In the desert summer, trees also help to cool a home’s windows and walls and keep its air conditioner from overworking. We asked AMWUA cities’ conservation professionals about a few of their favorite water-efficient shade trees. These trees lose all or most of their leaves in the winter so they are best planted on the south and west sides of your home. That will give you maximum shade in the summer and allow light and warmth into your home and yard in the winter.

  • Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) This large tree is always showing off. Its green canopy turns bright yellow and red in December and then drops its leaves. After this tree loses its leaves small greenish flowers emerge during the winter and new leaves start over in March. It provides deep shade in the summer but needs space. It can eventually reach 30-to-35 feet high with a 25-to-35 foot canopy. There is a similar hybrid called a Red Push Pistache.
  • Arizona or Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) Give this native tree plenty of room. The mesquite spreads its trunks and main branches in unpredictable and sculptural ways. It needs space to stretch. The tree sprouts white or yellow blooms around May then produces brown pods loved by all types of wildlife. It also offers shade in the summer and sheds most of its leaves for a few months in the winter.
My Mesquite

Mesquite

  • Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) This is a tree that’s only pretty in the summer, but its very pretty. Its showy trumpet flowers bloom from spring through fall in a variety of colors including white, pink and purple. It grows to 25 feet but only about 20 feet wide so it fits nicely into a small yard. This willow also grows pods and loses its leaves in the winter. There are a number of varieties available that produce and drop fewer pods.
  • Palo Blanco (Acacia willardiana) The shade this tree provides is filtered through an airy and upright canopy about 10 feet wide, so it’s another option for a small yard. It grows about 20 feet high and has creamy spike-shaped flowers in the spring. The tree is lovely even in the winter when it sheds many – but not all – of its leaves and shows off its creamy white lacey bark.
  • Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida) Arizona’s state tree is a popular and uniquely desert tree with greenish blue bark. It can grow 30 feet high and 30 feet wide. It has multiple trunks and does best in large yards.  Foothills Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphyllum) is another Arizona native.  It is smaller, growing to 15 feet high by 15 feet wide.  There also are plenty of hybrids that are suitable for smaller yards. Palo Verdes produce a dramatic canopy of yellow flowers in the spring.
SONY DSC

Palo Verde

Check AMWUA’s plant pages for the trees that are right for your yard. Consider where to plant the tree so it can grow comfortably into its space with minimal trimming. Desert-adapted trees need their foliage to keep them strong and protect them against sun and wind. AMWUA’s plant pages also offer practical information and answer important questions: Is this tree light on litter and pool friendly? Does this tree have thorns, does it attract wildlife, or can it cause allergies? Make sure you understand how to plant, stake and nurture a desert tree. October is the best time to plant a tree but don’t plant before mid September. Trees are valuable to the urban environment and an investment of your time and money.  Review your options now before heading to the nursery to reduce impulse buying and a costly mistake.

For 48 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.

On The Job: Phoenix Team Protects Miles Of Water Lines

By Warren Tenney

The City of Phoenix has 6,922 miles of water lines and 4,865 miles of sewer lines buried about four feet under our feet. It wouldn’t be hard for a contractor digging a pool in someone’s backyard or a crew widening a street to hit and damage one of those lines. It’s Tammie Burkett’s job to make sure they don’t.

Tammie is one of two Utility Foremen who work with 15 employees who protect water and sewer lines throughout Phoenix’s 540 square miles. Each week, Tammie and her team respond to about 3,000 requests to mark the location of water and sewer lines before someone digs. These lines are marked by those colorful doodles that appear from time to time on your street and sidewalk. Tammie said some people mistake these markings for graffiti and will even paint over them. Please don’t. The blue markings indicate there is a water line within 2 feet on either side and green markings indicate sewer lines. The lines show where workers must hand dig and gently expose the pipes. These underground water and sewer lines share space with gas lines indicated by yellow markings, electric by red and communication lines by orange.

Tammie behind truck

The requests for Tammie’s team to mark water and sewer lines come through Arizona 811, a statewide agency that takes online reports or calls at 8-1-1 from anyone who is going to dig into the ground. Most contacts are from contractors who need to dig into city streets or sidewalks. Arizona 811 prevents accidents by requesting each utility to mark the ground showing the location of its underground lines before the digging begins.

 

Some calls come from homeowners putting in a pole for a driveway basketball hoop or from nurseries planting trees in yards.  The city will locate and mark any city-owned water or sewer lines under a yard, but will not mark the water line that runs from a water meter into a home. These lines are owned by the homeowner and are not the city’s responsibility.

Once alerted by Arizona 811, Tammie and her crew must respond and mark the area within two working days. In an emergency, such as an automobile accident that damages a power pole and shuts down electricity to a neighborhood, Tammie’s crew must respond within two hours. A team member always is on call for after-hour emergencies, which happen an average of 15 times a week. The on-call team member is particularly busy during monsoon season. 

If anyone damages one of Phoenix’s water or sewer lines without calling Arizona 811 or damages a correctly marked line, that person may be responsible for paying for the repairs or possibly fined. It’s Tammie’s job to investigate what is known in her business as “contractor hits.” Sometimes the city makes a mistake when marking a line, but more often the person digging failed to contact Arizona 811 or was careless. Sometimes contractors dispute the findings and the case ends up in court. 

 

Tammie Demo

On the June day we visited, Tammie was working with a contractor who was putting in a swimming pool for a homeowner and sheared the top off a sewer line. The contractor had called the Arizona 811 number and knew where the sewer line was located.  “He just miscalculated while he was digging with his backhoe,” Tammie said. No sewage escaped, but it was a smelly mistake until a Phoenix crew repaired the hole the next day.

It’s rare that homeowners damage water and sewer lines, but it does happen. In some Phoenix neighborhoods 6-inch water lines are set back about 3  feet from the edge of the sidewalk and run under the front yards of homes along the street. On this same June day, Tammie was investigating a homeowner who had removed a large tree from his front yard. He had called Arizona 811 and received a “ticket” to show he had made the call but he removed the tree before the markings were placed. When he ripped up the tree, a 6-inch water line came with it.

Tammie cleaned trails and fought wild fires in Arizona and California before she began working for Phoenix 22 years ago. She started as a Parks and Recreation Department landscaper. Then Tammie decided she wanted to drive bigger trucks, so she earned her Commercial Driver’s License, transferred to the Phoenix Water Services Department and joined a team that cleaned and repaired wastewater lines.

For nine years, she vacuumed sewer lines and climbed into trenches to repair the lines, handling jackhammers, shovels and saws. “It’s not for everyone,” Tammie said. “It can be stinky – and dirty.” Tammie liked what she did then and likes what she does now, because she enjoys the people she works with. Tammie is from a military family that settled in Southern Arizona, where she graduated from Douglas High School.  She is ready to retire in a few years and return to that part of the state with her husband of 25 years.

For 48 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.

Study: Conservation Reduces The Cost Of Your Water Services

By Warren Tenney

Water conservation has been a bedrock element of water management in Arizona for the last several decades. Water conservation is built into our communities where summer highs remain above 100 degrees and rain is a rare blessing. We conserve to stretch water supplies, assure a sound economic future for our grandkids, and keep our environment healthy.  Yet, when water rates are increased, I am often asked: “Why am I using less water but paying more?”

AWE_ACA_Infographic_EverWonderTease

 

The question Arizona residents should be asking is “How much more would I be paying without conservation?”  To help answer this question, the Alliance for Water Efficiency worked with two Arizona communities, Gilbert and Tucson, to examine how costs were reduced thanks to decades of conservation.

AWE-color-verticalThe fact is, water rates are rising in many Arizona cities and across the country. It’s costing cities more money to ensure a reliable supply of water, to maintain and operate the treatment plants, and to keep the infrastructure sound, such as repairing and replacing pipes, pumps and meters.  

Conservation actually helps keep costs as low as possible even though rates do rise.  Using less water lengthens the lifespan of critical water supplies by being able to serve more people with the same amount of water.  This avoids the costs of securing new supplies, building, operating and maintaining new infrastructure to access those supplies, and treating more water and wastewater. Here is a quick summary of  the results from the Alliance study.

  • In the Town of Gilbert, two decades of conservation has reduced per-person-per-day demand from 244 gallons to 173 gallons.  This reduction helped the town avoid the need for more than $340 million in water and wastewater treatment expenses. As a result, rates are 5.8 percent lower than they would have been – a savings of $38 annually for customers. Additionally, connection fees for new businesses and new homes are 45 percent lower today. That’s a savings of $7,733 that the builder is not passing on to customers.
  • In the City of Tucson, 30 years of conservation reduced water use from 188 gallons per person per day to 130 gallons.  Without this reduction, Tucson would have needed to invest $350 million in new infrastructure to deliver and treat more water and wastewater.  Thanks to conservation, rates are 11.7 percent lower and all customers save an average of $112 annually on their water bills.

Arizona residents understand that conservation is important to maintaining the state’s water supplies and its economy. This is why cities offer a variety of conservation services, such as offering free desert landscape classes, rebates to customers who replace grass with desert landscaping and free water-saving audits to businesses and homeowners.  The Alliance for Water Efficiency study shows that conservation also is a cost-effective and sustainable way to keep rates low and water affordable.

For 48 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.

Inside Job: Water Efficiency A Fixture In City Buildings

By Warren Tenney

Central Arizona’s desert cities offer rebates, outdoor water audits, videos, free publications and landscape classes to help customers use water more efficiently outdoors. Cities also lead by example, creating beautiful, well-kept and efficiently watered landscapes around their public buildings and in their parks.

What may be less obvious are the improvements the cities have made inside the facilities they maintain. For decades, cities have taken the lead on adopting water efficient fixtures and practices inside their public buildings. The City of Glendale, Arizona, was the first major U.S. city to adopt a code requiring water efficient fixtures.  The ordinance took effect January 1, 1988. It applied to all new construction, as well as replacement of fixtures in existing structures.  Many of the Valley cities adopted similar ordinances in the years following. The federal government adopted water efficiency standards for fixtures in 1992. At the same time, cities began converting to more efficient fixtures inside their own facilities. 

STUDENT GILBERT

A student swaps out a 2.2. gallon per minute faucet aerator for a 0.5 gallon per minute faucet aerator in the Gilbert Police headquarters. 

 

Cities continue to evaluate how they can further improve water efficiency inside their public buildings. The EPA WaterSense Program is a voluntary labeling program that promotes fixtures that are 20 percent more efficient than the federal standard. Thanks to the EPA WaterSense Program the market offers a growing number of increasingly efficient fixtures. Cities are once again upgrading.

The Town of Gilbert is retrofitting its public buildings with more water efficient toilets, urinals, showerheads and faucets. Gilbert has done work inside its courts building and two municipal office buildings, two fire stations and the fire administration building, three recreation centers and one library.

Here are the fixtures Gilbert has installed:

  • 200 – .5 gallon-per-minute faucet aerators
  • 122 – dual-flush handles on toilets
  • 39 – 1.5 gallon-per-minute showerheads
  • 38 –  .5 gallon-per-flush urinals (and two waterless urinals)
  • 2 – 1.1 gallons-per-minute rinse spray valves.

Prior to the conversion, the town’s urinals used 1 gallon-per flush, the current federal standard. The town was able to cut in half the amount of water used by the urinals without purchasing and installing new fixtures. It simply replaced the urinals’ diaphragms. 

 

Date Log

A Water Conservation Specialist downloads a “data log” to check for leaks at a Gilbert building. 

 

When Gilbert’s conservation professionals crunch the numbers from the latest indoor plumbing upgrades, they project an annual savings of more than 1.6 million gallons of water and $6,000 in reduced water and sewer bills. (Yes, cities and towns must pay water and sewer bills, too.) The work in Gilbert is really just beginning. Water efficient upgrades still need to be made to 12 additional public facilities, including eight fire stations.

In 2011 the City of Scottsdale Council voted to focus on converting toilets installed in City Hall, North Corp Yard, Scottsdale Stadium, Civic Center, Mustang Library and Scottsdale Center for the Arts. The 1.6 gallon-per-flush (the federal standard) toilets will be replaced by more efficient 1.28 gallons-per-flush toilets as money becomes available. Compare that to the old 1980s toilets that used 5 gallons-per-flush or more. That’s a 74 percent reduction in water use.

For the past three years, Scottsdale also has reused 1.9 million gallons of what is known as “blowdown water” annually from its municipal buildings’ evaporative coolers. This wastewater would normally be discarded directly to the sewers, but it now replaces potable water used for fire truck testing in the North Corp Yard.

Other cities are finding additional savings in their facilities. The City of Glendale just finished an inventory of two libraries, two community centers and a fire station documenting the types of fixtures currently installed and making note of leaking toilets and missing faucet aerators. The city will continue to inventory buildings to prioritize water-saving changes. The City of Avondale is beginning a similar inventory of appliances and fixtures this year, and the City of Phoenix recently completed an extensive facility inventory. More water-efficient plumbing will be installed as cities remodel older buildings or as old fixtures and appliances break. New city buildings will be fitted with more water-efficient plumbing, such as a new City of Tempe fire station. 

If you’re stuck inside during the summer, it’s a great time to inventory your own interior for ways to save water. Adding aerators to your faucets is an easy way to save water and money. Consider replacing older toilets, which can use as much as 6 gallons of water per flush and are prone to silent, continual leaks. See if your city offers rebates to help offset the cost of replacement, and look for the WaterSense label when you make your purchase. The label ensures fixtures are more efficient and that they meet strict performance guidelines.

For information about finding and fixing household leaks, check out Smart Home Water Guide.

For 48 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.