Save Water (And Money) Outside This Summer

By Warren Tenney

We’re approaching peak demand season for city water departments, which means peak water bills for residents and businesses. The demand for water is at its highest in June or July when landscape irrigation systems, pools and cooling towers are working at maximum capacity. Cities build infrastructure to meet this annual peak demand and ensure there’s enough water for homes, business and fire hydrants.

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Right now, seven AMWUA cities will help you pay to decrease your summer outdoor water use through conservation rebates. The rebates usually come in two different categories: those for residential customers and those for non-residential or commercial customers. Commercial customers generally include homeowners associations, apartment complexes, churches, schools and businesses.

All AMWUA cities have water conservation programs but not all cities offer rebates. A city creates a water conservation program based on its customers’ demands and its infrastructure. A city also considers its demographics, budget, age and size – and the age and size of its houses and businesses. Cities sometimes offer unique rebate programs, such as the City of Scottsdale, the first city in Arizona to help encourage homeowners to remove pools and spas and water softeners. Conservation programs also change over time depending on how effective they have been at saving water.

Cities that offer rebates have a limited amount of funding, so it’s best to get your application in early. Here are rebates worth looking into before the temperatures start to climb. You can find the details about these rebates on your city’s website. Here is a link to the rebates offered by seven AMWUA cities.  The following are rebates that specifically can help you reduce your outdoor water use as well as how much time you have to spend maintaining your yard.

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Irrigation Controllers: Desert adapted landscapes don’t save water unless those who are caring for them understand their irrigation systems and how much water their trees, cactus, shrubs and grass need to thrive. Overwatering a drought-tolerant landscape is a common mistake that threatens the health of your plants and wastes water. That’s why many cities offer rebates to encourage residents to install automated irrigation controllers, particularly weather-based controllers. These irrigation controllers make daily adjustments to the amount of water used on your landscape based on weather data and information about site conditions, such as soil moisture, rain, wind, slope, soil, and plant type. Manufacturers provide videos that make them easy to set up. If you look for the WaterSense label, you’ll know you have a reliable, water-saving product. (Please consider joining the campaign to save the WaterSense program, a small but very successful national conservation program, from federal budget cuts.) Here are AMWUA cities that will help make that purchase easier.

  • City of Avondale: $50 rebate to homeowners toward any new automatically activated multi-program irrigation controller. Commercial customers receive a $200 rebate toward purchasing and installing weather-based irrigation controllers.
  • City of Chandler: $250 rebate toward a weather-based irrigation controller. Homeowners are eligible for one controller, and commercial properties are eligible for up to five controller rebates.
  • City of Peoria: $250 rebate toward a new weather-based irrigation controller.
  • City of Scottsdale: Up to a $250 rebate to install a new weather based controller. Homeowners are eligible for one controller, and commercial properties and HOAs can apply to replace the current number of irrigation controllers on their property.

Turf Replacement: It takes about half the amount of water to keep drought-tolerant trees and plants thriving compared to grass. A small amount of grass in your yard is great but sustainable desert living also means landscaping with drought-resistant trees and shrubs. That’s why some AMWUA cities will help homeowners and commercial properties with the cost of replacing all or some grass with drought-resistant plants and trees to permanently reduce their water use. Remember, just removing grass doesn’t make you eligible for a rebate. The grass must be replaced by low-water-use landscaping.

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  • City of Avondale: $200 rebate to homeowners. Commercial properties are eligible for rebates starting at $200 per 1,000-square-feet of grass replaced with a maximum of $3,000.
  • City of Chandler: $200 rebate for installing more than 50 percent desert adapted landscaping in a new home. Existing homes and commercial properties are eligible for a rebate of $200 per 1,000-square-feet of grass replaced with a maximum of $3,000.
  • City of Glendale:  $200 rebate to owners of new homes. Existing homes are eligible for up to $750. Commercial properties are eligible for rebates starting at $150 per 1,000-square-feet of grass replaced with a maximum of $3,000.
  • City of Mesa: $500 rebate to homeowners who replace 500-square-feet or more of grass. Commercial properties are eligible for a $5,000 rebate for replacing a minimum of 10,000 square feet of grass.
  • City of Peoria: $150 rebate to new homeowners who choose 50 percent desert landscaping. Customers with existing landscapes must replace a minimum of 500 square feet and are eligible for up to $1,650.
  • City of Scottsdale: Up to $1,500 to homeowners who remove a minimum of 500 square-feet of turf. Up to a $5,000 per year for commercial & HOA properties to remove a minimum of 2,000-square-feet of grass, in up to three calendar years.
  • City of Tempe: A rebate of 25 cents per square foot of grass. Commercial properties have a maximum of $3,000. Tempe also offers $1 per linear foot to any homeowner or business that removes strips of grass between the curb and the sidewalk. (These strips are hard to water and sprinklers usually water more of the street than the turf.)

Taking advantage of these conservation rebate saves you money, gives you a low-maintenance yard, and helps you use water more efficiently.

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 Fence About That Lawn? Here’s An Incentive

By Kathleen Ferris

Grass does have a role in our desert environment with proper care and appropriate irrigation.

There are heat-tolerant and less thirsty varieties of turf for those who love that patch of green in their backyard retreat and for those with children and pets who play on the lawn.

But it’s hard to argue in favor of growing swaths of grass in the desert just for ornamental purposes. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Phoenix area receives only 8 inches of rain a year on average and, like much of the West, Arizona is 15 years into a drought.

Unless you have a good reason to have that grass, is it worth the time, energy, and money, andgrass water?  Most of us don’t have the time to spend mowing and pampering the lawn the way our parents did.

Maybe the kids have grown and gone and the grass doesn’t have the same place in your life.  Perhaps that patch of grass is beginning to try your patience.  Or maybe you bought a house and not all the grass is really useful. With the right planning, grassy yards can become shady and colorful landscapes that use far less water any time of the year. 

If you’re on the fence about replacing it, your city may have some encouragement to offer.

Seven AMWUA member cities decided, some as early as the 1980s, to offer water bill rebates or a check to encourage residents to give up on lawns and try desert landscapes. Since then, these rebates have directly helped to convert hundreds of acres of grass into low-water use plants and trees at homes, HOAs, apartment buildings, churches, schools, shopping malls and businesses.

Three important things to consider:

1. In most cases, tearing out the grass isn’t enough. A property owner must replace the grass with low-water-use plants to earn the rebate.

2. No city requires that you give up all your grass. Plenty of homes and businesses include some grass in their desert landscape designs.

3. Not all cities offer rebates. It’s not because they don’t care, it’s because water conservation programs differ from city to city depending on the city’s age, size, demographics and neighborhood landscaping guidelines.

Here is a summary of the turf-conversion rebates offered by AMWUA member cities.

  • Glendale offers homeowners from $150 to $750 to remove from 500 square feet of turf to 4,500 square feet or more. The city offers commercial properties and HOAs $1,500 to participate in the city’s Water Budgeting Program and, then, $150 for every 1,000 square feet of grass removed up to 3,000 square feet.
  • Tempe offers homeowners 25 cents for every 1 square foot of turf they remove. The city does not set a limit on the amount. The city offers commercial properties 25 cents per square foot up to $3,000. The city also offers commercial property owners $1 per linear foot, up to $500, to remove the hard-to-water grass between the curb and the sidewalk.
  • Scottsdale offers homeowners 25-50 cents per square foot up to $1,500 to remove grass. Homeowners must remove a minimum of 500 square feet to qualify. The city also offers commercial properties 25 percent of the cost, up to $3,000, to remove grass and install city-approved low-water-use landscaping. Commercial property owners must remove a minimum of 1,000 square feet of turf.
  • Avondale offers homeowners up to $400 for converting a high-water-use landscape to low-water use. The city offers up to $200 for a backyard conversion and up to $200 for the front yard. The city offers commercial properties and HOAs $200 per 1,000 square foot up to $3,000.
  • Peoria offers homeowners and commercial customers from $90 to $1,650 to remove a minimum of 500 square feet of turf up to 5,000 square feet or more. The wide range of rebates offered depends on the amount of property covered with low-water trees and plants once the grass is removed. The higher the coverage, the higher the rebate.
  • Mesa offers $500 to homeowners who remove 500 square feet or more of turf. The city can offer commercial properties and HOAs $5,000 if they remove 10,000 square feet or more of turf. 
  • Chandler offers homeowners and commercial customers $200 for every 1,000 square feet of turf removed up to a maximum of $3,000.Sdale1

The savings on your water bill doesn’t stop with the rebate.  Research shows that an acre of desert-adapted landscaping uses about half the water that an acre of turf would use.  That’s a big savings on your water bill every month. That also means each acre of turf converted to desert-adapted landscaping saves about 2.35 acre-feet of water, or enough to serve seven average Arizona households for a year. 

While that’s a lot of water saved, property owners who take advantage of these rebates set an example for their neighbors. With the cities’ encouragement these homeowners, HOAs, and businesses have helped to promote a culture of conservation and led many other property owners to embrace desert-adapted landscaping.  And that preserves our precious water resources for future use.

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 www.amwua.org.

Your City May Be Willing To Help Pay For Six Home Improvements

By Kathleen Ferris

Thinking about some changes to your yard? Upgrading your kitchen, bathroom or laundry? If you upgrade to a more water-efficient home, your city may be willing to contribute to your project.

Seven of 10 AMWUA member cities have concluded that offering residential rebates help them meet water conservation goals. A city creates a water conservation program based on the demands of its  customers and its infrastructure. A city must consider its demographics, budget, age and size, and the age and size of its houses. For example, Phoenix doesn’t offer rebates but does offer to install free, water-efficient toilets in low-income neighborhoods. It has installed 300 so far.

Here are six water-saving changes you can make to your home that could earn you incentives from your city. Cities make these rebates generous enough so residents will take the time to fill out a rebate application. A few may surprise you.

  1. Toilet: The City of Tempe offers residents a rebate for half the cost, up to $75, if they replace a traditional toilet with a new low-flow fixture. The new toilet must use 1.28 gallons or less per flush. That’s up to $75 for each toilet in a house. The cities of Avondale, Peoria and Scottsdale also offer rebates on toilets and some include shower heads.
  2. Irrigation controller: The City of Chandler will pay for half of a resident’s new Smart Irrigation Controller, up to $250. These controllers also are known as weather-based or Evapotranspiration (ET) controllers. They make water adjustments up to 365 times a year based on weather and site conditions, such as soil, slope and plant type. The cities of Avondale, Chandler, Peoria, and Scottsdale also offer rebates on automated irrigation controllers.
  3. Water softener: The City of Scottsdale offers three water softener rebates.The city will give residents a $50 to $100 rebate to replace their current water softeners with a system that saves water or reduces the use of salt. Residents who permanently remove a water softener get a $250 rebate. Scottsdale is the only city to offer this rebate.
  4. Sdale1Turf removal: The City of Mesa offers residents a $500 rebate for removing 500 square feet of grass or more and replacing it with desert-adapted plants. The cities of Avondale, Chandler, Glendale, Scottsdale, Tempe and Peoria also offer a variety of turf removal rebates.
  5. Clothes washer: The City of Avondale offers residents $100 toward the purchase of a high-efficiency clothes washer if it replaces a standard top-loading model. Old top loaders can use up to 39 gallons for every load of wash while the front-loaders use 16 gallons. Avondale is the only city that offers a clothes washer rebate.
  6. Hot water recirculation system: The City of Scottsdale offers a rebate of up to $200 to residents who install a hot water recirculation system. These systems provide instant hot water to any faucet, saving the water that runs down the drain as you wait for it to heat up. Scottsdale is the only city to offer a hot water recirculation system rebate.

Cities budget a limited amount of money for these programs, so it’s smart to fill out an application quickly. AMWUA has links to details about all of these rebates on its website’s conservation pages. It’s worth taking a look.

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 www.amwua.org.

Growth And Conservation: Where Do You Draw The Line?

Kathleen Ferris

During the last few decades, cities in the Phoenix Metropolitan area became bustling economic centers providing jobs and homes for millions of new residents. Development spread across what had been farmland, orchards, and virgin desert.

Despite enthusiastic development, city officials worked to preserve open spaces, distinctive desert trees and plants, and water supplies. It was never an easy balance and cities learned to become very practical conservationists. For example, here is a brief description of three conservation ordinances adopted by the City of Scottsdale.

  • Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance: Scottsdale first adopted the ordinance in 1991. It helps to shape the location and size of development in about two-thirds of the city. The ordinance preserves natural landmarks, native plants, archaeological sites and geological sites throughout the city. It applies to private development and development by the city. (Scottsdale has protected most of the McDowell Mountains from development by creating the
    Photos:  Carol Ward-Morris

    Photos:
    Carol Ward-Morris

    30,200-acre McDowell Mountain Sonoran Preserve.) The ordinance protects washes thick with mature desert vegetation to help maintain continuous and connected open space and habitat for wildlife. It limits the number, density and height of buildings and requires developers to set aside open space where the desert is undisturbed or restored to it natural condition. The ordinance not only encourages development that blends with the desert, it also minimizes the city’s cost of building infrastructures, such as roads and water and sewer systems, and reduces the amount of landscape that can be irrigated.

  • Native Plants Ordinance: Scottsdale first adopted the ordinance in 1981. It requires developers (including the city) to salvage or protect 15 types of mature and healthy desert trees, including Desert Willows and Ironwood, and five types of cactus that have reached at least 3-feet in height, including Saguaros and Desert Night-Blooming Cereus. This ordinance applies to city developments, too. To build Appaloosa Library, on Scottsdale Road just south of E. Pinnacle Peak Road, the City of Scottsdale salvaged and replanted 30 desert trees, including 16 Blue Palo Verdes. The purpose of the ordinance is to save slow growing, hard-SONY DSCto-replace plants found only in the Sonoran Desert. Scottsdale has issued over 8,000 native plant permits and salvaged an estimated 350,000 protected plants.
  • Water Conservation Ordinance: Scottsdale first adopted the ordinance in early 1990s. It encourages developers to use low-water technology, appliances, fixtures, water features and landscaping. For example, it limits the size and type of outdoor water features, requiring equipment that minimizes leaks and overspray, such as re-circulating pumps and wind shut-off valves. The ordinance also offers businesses and residents rebates on their water bills in exchange for saving water, such as installing water efficient toilets, SONY DSCremoving turf, and upgrading irrigation controllers. The ordinance limits the amount of grass used in landscape designs, including for schools and churches, commercial buildings, and common spaces in HOAs.

The cities have led in smart development strategies, but their work is never over. While some environmentalists say cities are not doing enough, some developers continue to work against the cities’ efforts to conserve.

Here’s a recent example: During the last session of the Arizona Legislature a bill (HB2570) was introduced that would strip cities of their power to require developers to save some native trees and plants and to require drought tolerant landscaping. While this is hard to imagine, particularly after 15 years of drought, the bill initially met with little resistance and is expected to reappear next year.

As the drought continues, wise water use in our desert environment becomes even more critical. All of us must do our part, including the development community. Stripping cities of important water management tools is counter-productive and just plain wrong.

For 45 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.

Aim Low: Make Tiered Water Rates Work For You

By Kathleen Ferris

Are you paying more for your water than your neighbor? It’s a real possibility.

All 10 AMWUA member cities have tiered residential water rates. That means the more water you use, the more expensive it gets. Tiered rates encourage conservation, and allow your family to measure its water savings.

Since some cities expect water rates to increase in the next couple of years, residents will find this information increasingly valuable. The tiered water rate system is a little different for each of the AMWUA member cities of Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Phoenix, Peoria, Scottsdale, and Tempe. Some cities charge more or less for each tier depending on the season. Here is how tiered water rates work in the City of Peoria.

The City of Peoria's Utility Rate Calculator helps you estimate your water costs.

The City of Peoria’s Utility Rate Calculator helps you estimate your water costs.

Peoria has four tiers of water rates for single-family residences. Costs include a fixed “base rate” of $15.54 through $18.39, depending on the size of your water meter. The majority of residential meters qualify for the lowest base rate.

  • Tier 1: If you can cap your household water use to less than 4,000 gallons in one month, you pay $1 for every 1,000 gallons. That’s right. Keep your use under 4,000 gallons a month, and you pay the base rate plus $4.
  • Tier 2: When a family exceeds 4,000 gallons a month the cost of water begins to rise. The next 5,000 to 10,000 gallons cost $2.59 per 1,000 gallons or 2.5 times the price of the first 4,000 gallons.
  • Tier 3: The next 11,000 to 20,000 gallons of water used cost $3.66 per 1,000 gallons.
  • Tier 4: Any volume above 20,000 gallons costs $4 per 1,000 gallons, 4 times the cost of first-tier water.

To stay at 10,000 gallons a month, or at least within Peoria’s second tier, a family of two would use a maximum of 166 gallons of water per day per person. For a family of four, each member would use a maximum of 83 gallons of water a day. So, did you check your latest water bill? How far over the lowest tiers are you – 5,000 gallons, maybe 10,000 or more? Now ask yourself this: Where is all that water going? Here are some things you can do that would make a significant difference in the water and money you save.

  • Check for leaks. According to EPA WaterSense, leaks cost the average home 833 gallons a month. Try the AMWUA free online Smart Home Water Guide, a step-by-step manual for finding and fixing leaks. (It’s also available as a 24-page booklet in both Spanish and English. Just call your city’s water conservation office.)
  • Check your irrigation system. In the Phoenix area, as much as 50 to 70 percent of household water is used outdoors. Examine sprinkler heads and drip systems for puddles and broken or missing emitters. There are now products on the market that can make your irrigation system more efficient.
  • Cut the size of your lawn in half. Some cities will help you pay to remove turf and replace it with low water use plants and trees. Learn how to create a garden of colorful plants, shrubs and trees that offers beauty and shade for dogs and kids and thrives with much less water.
  • Look for the WaterSense label. The label guarantees new fixtures and appliances will use at least 20 percent less water than traditional products and perform equally well or better.

Want to learn more about saving water and money? Your city has a conservation program and experts to help.

For 45 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.

WaterSense: High Performance That Saves Water And Money

By Kathleen Ferris

Do you remember the old low-flow shower heads? Some of them were awful, weren’t they? Those old shower heads began to give water-efficient fixtures an image problem that was hard to shake.

The U.S. Congress mandated more water-efficient household fixtures and appliances in 1994. It was an effective law that made a real difference in Phoenix and other big cities. Phoenix has calculated that homes built in 2009 use one-third the amount of water used by homes built before the law passed.

image.cidAfter the law passed, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was looking for a way to promote the best performing water-efficient products and spur innovation.  In 2006, the EPA and industry partners created the WaterSense program. Now it’s easier for consumers to find high performing water-efficient products by looking for the WaterSense label.

For a manufacturer to receive the WaterSense label a product must use at least 20 percent less water than traditional fixtures or appliances and it must perform as well or better. The WaterSense program uses licensed, third-party certifying agencies to independently verify that the product meets both standards.

Water-efficient products have steadily improved. Today, most homeowners can’t tell the difference between a WaterSense shower head and a traditional one. The only indication is on a household’s water bill. For example, WaterSense bathroom sink faucets reduce water use by an average of 30 percent when compared to traditional faucets. That equals about 700 gallons a year for an average household, or enough water to wash 20 loads of laundry. Toilets that once needed 4-gallons of water to flush can now get the job done with as little as 1.28 gallons. By replacing old, inefficient toilets with a WaterSense model, an average family can reduce the water used by their toilets 20 to 60 percent.

It’s not hard for consumers to find WaterSense products. For example, for the last two years, Home Depot has won WaterSense Retailer Partner of the Year award for its dedication to promoting WaterSense products and Kohler Co. won for innovation. There are more the 1,600 models of shower heads and 1,900 toilets that meet WaterSense standards. The WaterSense stamp of approval is usually on the manufacturer’s label or consumers can visit the WaterSense product search site.

The WaterSense label isn’t just for shower heads and toilets anymore. WaterSense also tests and verifies weather-based automated irrigation controllers. That’s particularly important in the Phoenix area where as much at 50-70 percent of a home’s water is used outdoors.

All of the AMWUA member cities are WaterSense partners and each has a water conservation program designed to help you save money in your home and yard. Some cities offer rebates to help you pay to install new WaterSense fixtures and appliances. You could be saving some money and saving the rest of us a lot of water.

For 45 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.