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?”
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.
The 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.