Partnership Makes Desert Golf Courses Sustainable

By Warren Tenney

Since 1998, the City of Scottsdale has been treating about half of its wastewater to near drinking water standards. It’s an expensive process that uses reverse osmosis technology, but the city isn’t paying for all of it. The cost to build and operate the plant is shared between Scottsdale and 23 private north Scottsdale golf courses that use the water to keep their greens pristine.

It’s more difficult to keep golf courses green when irrigation water has a high salt content.  Saltier water means watering the greens more often and using more fertilizer. Before building the Advanced Water Treatment (AWT) Facility, the golf courses used untreated or “raw” Colorado River water delivered to the city by Central Arizona Project. The raw water has a salt content of about 600 to 650 milligrams per liter (mg/l). Wastewater recycled at the Advanced Water Treatment Facility is blended with raw CAP water and yields water with a sodium concentration below 125 mg/l, a level required to fulfill the city’s agreement with the golf courses. Using this low-salinity recycled water means the courses can use less water and fertilizer to maintain higher-quality greens. It also means the city can save more raw water to treat for drinking.


Ozone piping at Scottsdale’s Advanced Water Treatment Facility

The water that flows out of your home from your sink, shower, toilets and laundry and into the sewage system is traditionally called wastewater. The name no longer really applies for AMWUA cities. Nearly 100 percent of what was once wasted effluent is treated by the cities and put back to use.  In other words, water is reused.  Treated wastewater from five AMWUA cities – including the other half of Scottsdale’s wastewater – is sent through a 36-mile pipe to cool the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Cities also use treated wastewater to irrigate parks, create fishing lakes and wetlands, or save underground for future use, which is called “recharging” the aquifers. Wastewater is now a renewable water source, most often called recycled water or reclaimed water.

All reclaimed water used in parks, golf courses, HOA common areas, school playgrounds or church campuses is treated to what the state deems as A+ quality. Grade A quality means the water is treated and disinfected until there are no routine, detectable disease-causing bacteria. It moves up to A+ when the treatment process also removes nitrogen compounds, which can contaminate groundwater. Scottsdale’s advanced treatment plant goes one giant step further. It uses reverse osmosis to remove mainly salts and inorganic materials from the recycled water produced at the plant.

Wastewater always has a high salt content because it passes through homes and businesses, picking up salt from cooling towers, food and other waste. Chemicals used to treat wastewater also add salt to the end product. The salinity of Scottsdale’s wastewater from homes in the northern part of the city is particularly high, around 1,100 milligrams per liter. Scottsdale estimates that water softeners account for more than 30 percent of the total salt concentration in the wastewater system. Water softeners work by exchanging salt for hard minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, creating soft water for homeowners but dumping the salty brine discharge into the sewer system.


Water not used by Golf Courses is saved underground via a recharge well like this one.   Photos: City of Scottsdale

The advanced treatment plant is capable of producing 20 million gallons a day of low-salinity recycled water, although current rates of wastewater flowing into the plant are closer to 10 million gallons. In the summer, the golf courses use all of that water. When temperatures climb into the 110-degree range and above, recycled water is supplemented with raw water to meet summer irrigation demands. During winter months, the golf courses typically need an average of only 3 to 5 million gallons per day and, after a few rainy days, that need may drop to zero. Any additional low-salinity water produced at the plant is saved underground at the Scottsdale Water Campus for future use. Scottsdale also uses ozone and UV treatments on the water it saves underground to recharge the aquifer. These processes remove “emerging contaminants,” which are contaminants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying, but has not yet regulated. 

Scottsdale wanted to support its golf economy, but not use its precious drinking water supplies for irrigation. The dilemma was solved nearly two decades ago by a public-private partnership and technology. Today they call that innovation. Twenty years ago, it was just smart.

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

Wastewater Treatment Plant Turns Gaseous By-Product Into Profit

By Warren Tenney

Arizona’s largest wastewater treatment plant already cleans and re-uses nearly all of the waste it receives from 2.5 million people in five AMWUA cities. Now, the cities that own the treatment plant have found one more way to re-use its products. As of spring 2018, the 91st Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant will stop burning off the mostly methane gas it creates as a by-product. Instead, the plant will transform the by-product into renewable biogas and sell it for more than $1.2 million a year.


91st Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant   Photos: City of Phoenix

The 91st Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant’s effluent, or treated wastewater, is re-used to irrigate crops, create a wildlife wetlands project called Tres Rios, and provide cooling water for the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, 36 miles west of the plant. The wastewater plant treats and transforms solid waste – all the stuff ground up in garbage disposals and flushed down toilets – into fertilizer for non-food crops, such as hay, alfalfa and cotton. The City of Phoenix, which operates the plant, and its four AMWUA city partners have found a way to produce yet another marketable product – biogas. Here’s how it will work.


Tres Rios Wetlands

  • The plant has 16 large digester tanks with a capacity of 1.5 million gallons to 3 million gallons. These digesters operate like an industrial stomach, digesting solid sewage waste as a step toward turning it into fertilizer. Just like our own digestive system, these industrial digesters expel gas. That gas is now vented through three flares and burned off into the atmosphere.
  • Last week, Phoenix and its partners broke ground for a new facility next to the plant that is about as big as a football field. The new facility is being built and operated by Ameresco, a vendor selected by the cities that own the treatment plant. It is expected to be completed and operating by spring 2018. When completed, the plant will be fully automated and will be operated by one person. The stacks that flare the gas will remain on-site to act as a backup if needed.
  • The new facility will scrub and pressurize the plant’s gas into clean biogas. The gas will be compressed and travel through an underground pipe to a large commercial gas pipeline three miles west of the plant.

This is a similar Ameresco bio-gas plant in San Antonio, Texas.

The 91st Avenue plant was built in 1968 by a partnership of AMWUA’s five original member cities, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. This partnership is known as the Sub-Regional Operating Group or SROG. The plant treats an average of 140 million gallons of wastewater a day but has the capacity to treat 230 million gallons. Both the plant and the biogas facility are built to accommodate what is expected to be a growing market.

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

Drought: Five Things You Need To Know About This Rainy Winter

By Warren Tenney

Many people are wondering what this rainy, snowy winter means for Arizona after more than two decades of drought. Here are five things we know right now.

1. It’s raining and snowing in the right places. So far, it has been raining and snowing in locations that have the potential to increase water in two major reservoirs, Roosevelt Lake and Lake Mead. These reservoirs are key to drinking water supplies for the majority of Arizona’s population.

  • Lake Mead relies on runoff from snow pack in the Upper Colorado River Basin, primarily from two main tributaries: the Green River in southwestern Wyoming and the Upper Colorado River in western Colorado. December snowpack in the Colorado River Basin has ranged from 50 percent to three times above normal.  The result of this above normal precipitation will likely boost the reservoir levels of Lake Mead.
  • Roosevelt Lake relies on rain and snow in the watershed that feeds the Salt River. This watershed reaches into the high country northeast of Phoenix. So far, the watershed has received about 45 percent more precipitation than normal. As of January 25th, 211,000 acre-feet of water had flowed into Roosevelt Lake. (One acre-foot of water is enough to serve three average Arizona households for a year.)

2. This is a good start. Weather in February and March must remain cold and wet to hold and increase the gains and potential gains in both reservoirs. Water resource managers are pleased with rain but prefer snow accompanied by extended weeks of cold temperatures. Low temperatures keep the snow on the ground longer, which stops the water in the ground from evaporating and helps to reduce the threat of summer wildfires. The slow flow from melting snow also delivers cleaner water and is easier to manage in a water delivery system. So while it has already been a good winter, we will have to wait until April to know if it has been a great season.


This is a map of the  watershed where the springs, creeks and rivers originate that feed into Roosevelt Lake, a key drinking water reservoir for the Phoenix Metro area.

3. The drought is not over. Research shows that drought cycles and wet cycles in Arizona run 20 to 30 years. A drought cycle has fewer wet years than dry and a wet cycle has a greater number of above average rainy years. The current record-breaking drought cycle began around 1996. The last six years have been the driest on record in the Salt and Verde rivers’ watersheds. If the weather follows historical trends, the current drought could be coming to a close within the next several years, but there’s no certainty and it does not factor in climate change. It would take a few years of greater than average snow and rain to begin to heal the wounds left by the current drought. This includes helping to replenish local aquifers used to back up water available in dams and reservoirs. Plus, two or three years of well above-average precipitation on the watersheds that feed the Salt and Verde rivers would help to re-establish depleted wildlife, such as quail and deer. That much precipitation would help to restore overgrazed grasslands and begin to create a healthier forest, with trees not as susceptible to diseases and bark beetle infestation.


4. AMWUA cities are built for drought. Sunshine is the norm in Central Arizona and rain is an event. We have never denied that we live in an arid part of the country and we plan for drought cycles. AMWUA cities save water underground for future use, keep leaks within their water distribution systems to some of the lowest rates in the country, and re-use 99 percent of their wastewater. Salt River Project (SRP) operates the system of reservoirs and canals that store water from the Salt and Verde rivers. After a rare rainy year in 2010, SRP has faced six dry years on the rivers’ watersheds. Despite record low precipitation, Roosevelt Lake has remained half full and SRP has been able to fill water orders for farmers, industries and cities. SRP was forced to limit water orders by 33 percent in 2002, the driest year in the Southwest in 1,200 years. That year, the SRP system was only 25 percent full and Roosevelt Lake alone was down to 10 percent full. It was the first reduction since the 1950s.

Central Arizona Project (CAP) operates the canal that brings Colorado River water released from Lake Mead to Arizona. CAP has not yet had to reduce water supplies due to a Colorado River shortage. The state’s cities, farmers and industries currently are working together to maintain and increase the level of water stored in Lake Mead and prevent a water shortage declaration next year. The recent increase in winter precipitation and snowpack in the Colorado River Basin decreases the chances that a shortage would be declared in 2018. So, while we regularly face metrological droughts, our water supply droughts are rare.

5. You can make the rain count. Homeowners, apartment managers and businesses make a contribution to our reservoirs when they turn off their irrigation systems and auto-fills on their pools each time it rains. More homeowners and communities also are harvesting the rain by contouring their landscapes to hold storm runoff. Swales built around trees and plants help rainwater stay in place longer so the water soaks deep into the landscape and stays available to plants and trees longer. All of this reduces the need to irrigate and the demand on city water supplies, which in turn saves more drinking water for drinking.

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 


Grease Coop: A Beautiful Solution To An Ugly Problem

By Warren Tenney

Grease sent down drains in restaurant kitchens has plagued city sewer systems since they were built. The Tempe Grease Cooperative takes an artful step toward better controlling the ugly problem. The program saves money for the City of Tempe and its businesses and transforms a government regulation into a government benefit.

The Problem: Grease, oils and fats from thousands of restaurants collect in cities’ wastewater systems. It requires expensive maintenance to stop all that grease from building up and blocking sewer lines. All AMWUA cities work hard to help businesses keep fats, oils and grease out of wastewater systems. They also encourage residents to save their own plumbing and their cities’ wastewater systems by cooling grease and then  putting it into the trash. A sewer line blocked by grease can cause sewage spills that are no fun to deal with.  Once grease-rich sewage reaches a wastewater treatment plant it also is more difficult and costly to clean and re-use. AMWUA cities treat and re-use wastewater to irrigate turf, store underground and cool the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.


This is an industrial grease interceptor or grease trap.


It’s not the vats of oil left over in restaurants from French fries and fried chicken that create the problem. This is called “yellow” grease and is a valuable commodity picked up by vendors and used to create biofuels. The problem is “brown” grease  cleaned off dirty dishes and mopped off restaurant floors. It has to go somewhere and state and city regulations work to keep it out of sewers. Small restaurants must attach tanks to their sinks to trap the grease. Larger restaurants usually bury tanks, most often under their parking lots, to intercept greater amounts of fats, oils and grease. Cities require restaurants to hire companies to regularly clean and dispose of grease caught in these traps. Tempe inspectors find too many traps are not cleaned often enough or not cleaned to city standards and allow too much grease to enter the sewer system. This causes tension among restaurants, cleaning companies and the city.

The Solution: The city decided it wanted to offer restaurants an alternative way to comply with city requirements and kicked off the voluntary Grease Cooperative three years ago. The city’s Grease Coop hires vendors on behalf of local restaurants to clean the restaurants’ grease traps. The Grease Coop offers additional services to power spray a restaurant’s sewer lines, make repairs to its grease trap when needed, and pick up its yellow grease to sell for biofuel production. Tempe gains because it knows the job is done right and can reduce the number of grease trap inspections and improve relations with busy restaurant owners. The restaurants that join the coop enjoy the benefits of an economy of scale – an average 15 to 20 percent reduction in the cost of hiring their own vendors. The coop also saves restaurant owners and managers time by taking over the responsibility of monitoring the vendors’ work. Three years later, 173 restaurants are in the cooperative.


A City of Tempe vendor cleans a grease trap.

The Challenges: Tempe has 1,000 restaurants but, right now, the city is not actively recruiting businesses to join the Grease Coop. Tempe is working to grow the program in a manageable way so it can maintain the quality of its service. It has two challenges. First, administrative data, such as scheduling, billing, payments and compliance, are now entered by hand into electronic spreadsheets. The city is soliciting bids through January for a new software program that will allow administrative data to be recorded with a few clicks on a website. Restaurants, vendors and the city would have access to the program. The city expects the administration of the Grease Coop to be fully electronic by early to mid 2018. Second, Tempe also needs time to find, vet and procure more vendors who will do a good job at the right price.

The Future: Tempe operates the only city-managed Grease Coop in the country. Cities in California, Texas and Iowa are building programs and Dublin, Ireland, just launched a pilot program with Tempe’s guidance. Tempe hopes to inspire a regional Grease Coop joined by neighboring cities. A regional program would reduce costs for cities and restaurants and generate enough brown grease to begin transforming it into biogas at wastewater treatment plants where it can be used as a power source for plants or compressed into vehicle fuel.

We’re not the only people who think the Grease Coop is beautiful. The Alliance for Innovation is a partnership of 350 cities as large as New York and as small as Yuma. Every year the Alliance recognizes the country’s most innovative programs and in 2016 Tempe’s Grease Cooperative received the Alliance’s highest award. This little program that solves an ugly problem has a pretty brilliant future. Here’s a video that will help you learn more about the Grease Coop.

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

Gilbert Grows Program To Help HOAs Lower Water Bills

By Warren Tenney

In the last two years, the Town of Gilbert has more than doubled the number of Homeowners Associations enrolled in a free program that takes the guesswork out of landscape irrigation. The program walks HOAs through the steps that lead to thriving landscapes while using less water and saving money. That information fosters greater harmony among HOA board members, residents, property managers and landscape contractors.


Vintage Ranch

Gilbert’s HOA Landscape Irrigation Assistance Program calculates the acreage of turf and desert-adapted plantings in each HOA’s landscape and, with other detailed information, determines the volume of water needed to keep an HOA’s landscape healthy. Here’s what happens next.

  • The Town then compares the volume of water needed to the current amount of water the HOA is using. The Town first contacts HOAs that are exceeding the recommended volume of water by the highest percentages.
  • If the HOA agrees, Gilbert irrigation expert Jeff Lee meets with a board member, the property manager and the landscape contractor to determine how, when and where to make changes that would help the HOA use water more efficiently and, likely, lead to lower bills.
  • It doesn’t end there. Each month, the three representatives receive an email from Gilbert that shows the actual volume of water the HOA is using compared with the recommended volume.


    Cooper Ranch

Most enrolled HOAs immediately reduce their water use to the volume the Town’s calculations suggest. Soon, specific problems within the irrigation system become obvious when parts of the landscape begin looking stressed.

Jeff helps the HOA determine how to solve these problems and suggests improvements to the irrigation system.  These improvements could mean changing the space between sprinklers, using more water-efficient sprinkler heads, or adding drip emitters that control pressure and ensure even watering. The HOA uses the initial savings from the water bill to invest in improving and maintaining its irrigation system so it can work at peak efficiency.

Gilbert started the HOA Landscape Irrigation Assistance Program in 2007 and it operated until 2011 when it was suspended due to the recession and staffing cutbacks. The program restarted in 2014 and had 20 HOAs enrolled by the end of the year. There are 52 communities enrolled in the program today.  All but seven irrigate their landscapes with water treated for drinking. The others use highly treated wastewater, called recycled or reclaimed water. These 52 communities have about 500 acres of grass and 500 acres of desert landscaping.


Val Vista Place

So how effective is this program at saving water? Here are the statistics from Gilbert.

  • At the end of 2015, 36 communities were enrolled.
  • In 2013, these 36 communities were using 1.2 billion gallons of water for irrigation.
  • By the end of 2015, they were using 990 million gallons. That’s a savings of 235 million gallons.

That’s an impressive number, but some of the 36 communities didn’t enroll until the end of 2015, so the potential savings is even greater.

HOA boards are more comfortable knowing their communities are using just the right amount of water for irrigation and knowing what to expect in their water bills each month. More HOAs require their landscape contractors to have similar water-efficiency programs. At least one management company requires their landscape contractors to join Gilbert’s HOA Landscape Irrigation Assistance Program.

Josh Dupper of R.H. Dupper Landscaping Inc. said he has worked years perfecting his own computer program that estimates and irrigates the amount of water an HOA should be using to keep its landscape healthy. Josh has worked closely with Gilbert’s HOA Landscape Irrigation Assistance Program and calls Gilbert’s Jeff Lee a “wealth of knowledge” who has helped Josh improve the efficiency his own irrigation management program. Josh said creating a water-efficiency program for an HOA is complicated with a lot of math and science and Gilbert’s program is needed to help landscapers create better programs.

“You need the city to double check the accuracy for accountability,’’ Josh said. “It’s good to have checks and balances.”

Gilbert isn’t the only city that helps HOAs irrigate more efficiently and save money. Check with your city’s conservation professional for help.

For 47 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

Arizona Is Big Winner Of Water Innovation Prize

By Warren Tenney

Pima County’s Southwest Water Campus is the winner of the New Arizona Prize: Water Innovation Challenge and it has a big job ahead of it. These creative water professionals intend to increase the public’s acceptance of reclaimed water – that’s highly treated wastewater – for drinking, in this particular case for drinking beer. While the winner received $250,000, the real winner is Arizona.


The projects presented by the Water Innovation Challenge winner and four finalists show Arizonans continue to find creative ways to make the most out of every drop of our water.  This innovative spirit comes from our heritage of finding ways to re-use, stretch, recycle and augment water resources in an arid land. 

The winning team from Pima County is going to create a traveling treatment plant – imagine a tractor-trailer – that will tour the State to show how today’s technology produces the highest standard drinking water from reclaimed wastewater. The project’s water pros will then challenge local brewers to craft the best beer in the State with that water. The goal is to help people become more comfortable with using reclaimed water for human consumption. Gaining public confidence in the technology through a beer tasting competition could win public acceptance for directly supplying this important resource for consumption.


This innovative proposal builds on Arizona’s previous pioneering efforts to put effluent to beneficial use.  Back in 1926, a treatment plant was built at the Grand Canyon Village for the purpose of reclaiming wastewater for non-drinking purposes.  In 1932, the City of Phoenix produced reclaimed water for agricultural uses.  Most notably, AMWUA negotiated in 1973 an agreement with Arizona Public Service (APS) to provide reclaimed water for cooling purposes at the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant, the only nuclear power plant in the world to be cooled with reclaimed water. Reclaimed water is also stored underground for later use.

One of AMWUA’s members, the City of Phoenix, was a top finalist with a proposal to create a market-based technological tool to help water managers throughout the state collaborate and develop opportunities to exchange water.  The expert-designed, data-driven tool would create the Arizona Water Exchange Program.  Options would be created in the context of current Arizona water law, drought dynamics, and Colorado River conditions.

Phoenix’s state-of-the-art proposal uses technology to build on Arizona’s history of collaboration.  From the Groundwater Management Act to creation of the Arizona Water Banking Authority, collaboration has been the key ingredient to solving water problems. Since 1969, AMWUA cities have worked together to supply safe, reliable water to their communities. 

Another finalist, Freshwater Systems Co., proposed using solar heat to treat Arizona’s abundant brackish or semi-salty groundwater to irrigate crops more efficiently and increase growth of winter crops. Treating brackish water builds on the idea of how desalination could benefit Arizona in the future. West Valley cities and others are looking at ways to treat salty water to help increase water supplies. 

Finalist WaterWorks@ASU has a plan to reclaim Arizona State University’s wastewater and use it in ASU’s cooling towers, among other applications.  The goal is to reduce the amount of drinking water used in cooling towers, which provide air conditioning in large buildings. ASU believes it would save 1.5 million gallons a day. This plan to treat and re-use wastewater on site is a big step toward making Valley buildings and campuses more water sustainable.

The last finalist, Friends of Verde River Greenway, proposed an exchange program that allows willing water users to temporarily reduce their water use and acquire “credits”. The credits can then be sold to water users who want to offset the impacts of their continued water use. The goal is to keep the Verde River flowing to benefit all those who use the Verde River including fish and wildlife, local residents and the Phoenix-area communities.  This new concept builds on the Valley cities’ long standing commitment to defend the Salt and Verde watersheds that generate water for the Phoenix area. It also builds on Salt River Project and The Nature Conservancy’s individual efforts to protect and manage our forests and watersheds.


The Water Innovation Challenge proves Arizona continues to create innovative solutions now to ensure ample water supplies for its future.

For 47 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: A Conversation with Scottsdale’s Mayor Lane

By Warren Tenney

Jim Lane’s resume is packed with past and present memberships on important governing boards, such as the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and Maricopa Association of Governments. After becoming the City of Scottsdale’s Mayor in 2009 he added one more, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association’s Board of Directors. Since then, he has been a regular at the monthly meetings, has served as AMWUA’s Board president and is now the Board’s secretary/treasurer. He is AMWUA’s longest serving Board member. During his 43 years living and working in Scottsdale, the Mayor has taken an interest in the Valley’s efforts to secure water supplies, in particular from the Colorado River, and the progress cities and the state have made saving and cleaning once-polluted aquifers. His active role as Scottsdale’s mayor comes first, but the Mayor said AMWUA is second. “Water is foremost in my mind, “ he said. “A resource so vital to our ability to grow and to be productive.” We thought it was time to sit down and talk water with the Mayor.

Q. What’s with all these golf courses in Scottsdale? It’s a desert city after all. 

A. “Golf is an industry. It is one of our primary industries. We have come to recognize it as one of our primary exports. People come here, buy an experience, and take it home. In order to accommodate that, we were the first – and maybe the only – city in the state to have 23 of those golf courses on a separate recycled water system. It’s a separate system the golf courses paid for themselves to water their golf courses. So, it waters their turf and keeps them in water at a competitive rate. It’s highly treated, but it’s reclaimed water.”

“Nearly a quarter of our general fund dollars comes from tourism, not to mention the fact that people who have second homes here are paying property taxes. It pays for basic services, police, fire, streets, roads, and libraries. Our direct tourism dollars – this would be bed-tax funds – enable us to off-load from our citizens the cost of maintaining TCP (Tournament Players Club), WestWorld, to build the Museum of the West and those kinds of things that end up enhancing our tourism traffic.”

Q. What question about water do people ask you the most?

Mayor Lane HeadshotA. “What is a little, sometimes, bothersome is that now I’m getting questions like: We have a water crisis. What are you doing about it?  I don’t ever want anyone to think we’re in la-la land, and in denial of challenges ahead of us. And so I try to say, look, we are as ready for this as anybody is. And we’re working every day on fine tuning and planning, not only solutions but conservation and growth. Another thing I share with them: In five years of increasing population our (City of Scottsdale’s) water consumption is flat.”

Q. Are you worried about climate change and what it could mean to our water supplies?

A. “No. I guess I’ve got to say I’m still a skeptic. I’m always concerned when the government is trying to assume more and more control over something, either to control or to tax. I concern myself with the motivation. Have we had cycles in our weather? When I was a younger man, the new ice age was coming. Then it changed to global warming. Then when things weren’t going that way, then we’re talking about climate change. I think we do have climate change, and I think we’ve always had climate change. But, nevertheless, I guess I’m a bit of a skeptic. I know some consider me a knucklehead because of my thinking and my skepticism on this subject.  Whatever the case may be, we still have to respond and manage our water according to the conditions before us.”

Q. Your city has worked hard to encourage residents to use water efficiently and provide innovative incentives to help residents conserve, such as rebates to remove water softeners and pools. Do you see cities as partners with environmentalists?

A. “The contrast we have with the environmentalists  – and I’d say maybe with the purest of the environmentalist’s side – is that we’re still advocates of growth. It has to be managed. I don’t mean managed in the sense of growth. I mean we have to manage our resources to make sure we can sustain our economy and our growth. That doesn’t mean by abusing our resources, it means by conserving our resources and making it work. But we’re not going to tell everybody to leave. We don’t see humans as the problems. We see them as something we have to accommodate and grow with.”

Q. So you’ve been in your home for 29 years. Have you made any changes to make it more water efficient?

A. “When the kids were home, we had a small soccer field out there (the back yard) so we went (with grass) from wall to wall. When they were all gone we decided to rein it in a little bit. We like the grass but it works out fine for us as it is right now, probably sometime we’ll change that configuration again. All the edges are Xeriscape. The front yard and most around the pool is all Xeriscape and has been from the beginning. When I built this house we hired a guy from ASU. He was a specialist in Xeriscape so all our vegetation was adapted. We weren’t into a lot of non-indigenous plants. We have over-seeded (the grass) in the winter a couple of times. When our oldest son got married we reseeded and we had the wedding here. And there have been a couple of times since then that I’ve done that, but it’s not a matter of course. It looks great but it’s just not worth it.”

Q. What are the water issues we haven’t talked about that you think are important?

A. “One thing is a concerted effort to get rid of salt cedar (also known as Tamarisk) in our watershed areas and primarily the Colorado River basin – 30 gallons (of water each tree uses) a day for millions of trees. It’s not indigenous to the area. It’s not right for our area. That’s a huge problem. I know it’s been a futile effort up until this time. Totally inadequately funded and I think that’s a major problem. It’s an outrage.”

Prescribed burn in Coconino National Forest Photo: SRP

“The second is forest management, which directly affects the water we receive in the Valley. I’ve spent the last several years trying to partner with environmentalists and you realize that we are looking for the same thing, ultimately. There will be differences in how we get there. But forest management is one of those critical things in which environmentalism – in the purest form – has really worked against us. It’s created the wildfire scenario where high-intensity flames just burn things to dust and destroy the watershed and pollute with biomass materials coming down in the drainage. This creates a monumental addition to (water) processing costs, which is a further carbon footprint as far as the power used to reprocess this (polluted water).  And then there is, frankly, the pollution of the water to boot and the inadequacy of soil conservation and, therefore, a denigration of the watershed and its development. Those are huge areas. The Four Forest fund initiative we actually contributed to at my suggestion. The City of Scottsdale will contribute $120,000 over the next three years to that fund as a participant. And my constituency would ask me: why are we contributing to that? Frankly, it’s our watershed.”

Q. How has AMWUA changed in the seven years you have helped to lead it?

A. “When I first came onto AMWUA it was a very different organization. It was just sort of a much lower profile organization doing the basics of representing the municipalities with SRP (Salt River Project) and CAP (Central Arizona Project). Now we’ve become more of a policy advisor for a wider group of folks, or I’d like to think we are. The credibility and reputation we’re building is a positive thing.”

For 47 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