As water use rises, the city focuses on conservation | City News

The hottest months of the year are here – and not surprisingly, they also comprise the time when Scottsdale residents use the most water.

That means Scottsdale water officials are facing their first real test since asking residents to reduce their water usage by 5% in January 2022.

The city has had mixed results with that request to date.

City offices have reduced their water usage by 7.9% private use is down just 2.5%, Scottsdale Water Resources Executive Director Brian Biesemeyer told City Council last month.

“This is exciting news,” he said. “The city has really embraced increasing water conservation on the news of the Colorado River shortage and it’s rewarding to know that efforts are paying off.”

While the water conservation signs are promising, Biesemeyer also recognized the need for more.

“With summer and peak water demand season right around the corner everyone needs to make a conscience effort to conserve this precious resource,” he said.

The city Water Department plans to go before council later this month with requests for several policy changes, Biesemeyer said.

Those policies include things like requiring commercial properties to buy WaterSense Smart irrigation controllers, restrictions on non-functional grass areas for new development and separate landscaping metering.

“Since the beginning, Scottsdale residents have been at the forefront of conservation efforts, but more will be needed to combat the struggles on a dwindling Colorado River supply,” Water Department spokeswoman Valerie Schneider said. “But in Scottsdale, it’s easy for residents and businesses to make a difference; all they have to do is look outside. Up to 70% of Scottsdale’s water use occurs outdoors with the biggest water user being grass.”

And the department has several ways residents can cut back on their outdoor water usage.

“Any Scottsdale Water customer can request a free outdoor efficiency check where a certified irrigation specialist will come to a customer’s residence, walk their property, and give detailed water savings tips tailored to their property, including teaching residents how to program their irrigation system and water properly,” Schneider said.

“Taking advantage of this program can easily save residents 4,000 gallons of water each month – an easy way to accomplish the voluntary 5% cutbacks.”

Another water saving measure is replacing grass with desert landscaping.

“Scottsdale is so eager to get residents to reduce their water use that starting July 1, turf removal rebates will double, allowing customers to receive $2 per square foot of turf removed that is replaced with desert landscaping,” Schneider said.

The city has also invested in a new infrastructure program called Advance Metering Infrastructure which allows customers to logon to a new WaterSmart portal giving residents visual learning tools to see how and when their water is being used. It can also alert customers to leaks on their property. Go to scottsdaleaz.gov/water/watersmart to log onto the WaterSmart Portal.

City Manager Jim Thompson activated the first stage of the city’s Draft Management Plan Aug. 16, 2021, in the wake of the federal Bureau of Land Management’s announcement of water rationing on the Colorado River to the state that began in January.

Arizona will see an 18% reduction in its water supply in 2022 that will primarily be absorbed by the state’s agricultural industry as a result of that reduction. Tier one of the drought management plan is mostly educational in nature. Mandatory rationing will not occur in Scottsdale under tier one of the drought management plan.

“As for water restrictions, those would need to be determined and approved by city council, not Scottsdale Water,” Schneider said.

Water and sewer rates are going up, though.

Water rates are going up 3.4%, effective Nov. 1. Officials delayed the start of the higher rates to give customers time to change their water-usage habits.

Sewer rates will increase 4.7% on July 1.

The reasons for both increases include increasing costs of raw water and treatment chemicals, rising costs of repairing aging infrastructure, the need for more actions for drought preparedness under Stage 1 of the Drought Management Plan and higher groundwater treatment operating costs to improve the reliability, safety and water quality of Scottsdale wells.

Specifically, the cost of Central Arizona Project water is up 14%, the cost of Salt River Project water is up 6% and treatment chemicals costs are up 16%. The total water and chemical for water and sewer increase is $4,513,969.

Stage one of the drought management plan also means the city will stop all water hauling services to the nearby Rio Verde Foothills community in January 2023.

That has thrown that community northeast of Scottsdale into a civil war over whether to create a non-contiguous domestic water improvement district, known as a DWID. Pro DWID supporters want to draw water from the Harquahala water table and pump it to the Rio Verde Foothills community.

Meanwhile, the anti-DWID folks do not trust the pro-DWID side of the argument and would rather see Epcor, a private water utility, step in to provide water. An Epcor spokeswoman has said the company would be happy to step in but she doesn’t know where the water would come from to service the community.

An estimated 500 homeowners in the community of approximately 2,100 homes rely solely on hauling to provide water to their homes while approximately 200 more rely on hauling for some portion of their water.

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