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Jaci Jensen
Jaci Jensen

Home Smart Elite Group
Glendale, AZ 85308

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AZ Landscape - Conserve Water

How Are Arizona Cities Promoting Water Conservation?

“Here’s the bottom line: We’re in a 19-year-drought,” said Gov. Doug Ducey in his 2019 State of the State address. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

According to Ducey, securing the state’s water future is now Arizona’s most pressing issue.

More than one-third — about 36 percent — of Arizona water comes from the Colorado River, making it the state’s largest renewable water supply, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR).

Arizona used about 7 million acre-feet of water — more than 2.2 trillion gallons — in 2017, about 21 percent of which went to municipal and residential use. Arizonans each use about 145 gallons of water per day, according to the ADWR.

Arizona is expected to grow by another 5 million people by 2050, and as the population grows and drought and climate change reduce water supplies, new approaches must be taken to ensure communities, wildlife, industry, and agriculture can continue to flourish, according to Western Resource Advocates.

The state legislature is still working to find consensus on a proposed Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), a pact between Arizona, Nevada, and California. The plan outlines how the states would cut water use from the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basins, which are fed by Lake Mead, near Las Vegas.*

If water levels at Lake Mead drop below 1,075 feet above sea level by the end of the year as projected, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will declare a water shortage. Water managers say without a DCP, Arizona will no longer be able to avoid a shortage.

*UPDATE: The Drought Contingency Plan was approved by the State Legislature in a sweeping vote. The next step requires congressional action to implement the federal components of the plan. 

But the DCP does not solve Arizona’s water crisis, it only postpones it. Experts say urban water conservation and reuse is the best strategy for ensuring sustainable supplies of this limited resource — and much cheaper than obtaining more water from elsewhere.

Arizona cities are leading the way to a new conservation culture, educating residents of all ages on the importance of water stewardship.

Water – Use It Wisely

For example, the city of Mesa created the “Water—Use It Wisely” campaign almost 20 years ago, joined quickly by Phoenix and Scottsdale, to offer Arizonans more effective ways to limit water waste.

The 120-jug tower represents the number of gallons that are used per person per day, on average, in Arizona.

A 16-foot-tall pyramid of one-gallon water jugs has been on display in the Executive Tower of the State Capitol since the beginning of January, representing a physical depiction of the water the average Arizonan uses daily.

“The display reflects Governor Ducey’s expressed commitment to water issues during the current legislative session,” the ADWR said in a statement. “Those include protecting the Colorado River system, as well as emphasizing the theme of the long-running Water—Use It Wisely campaign, which is to bolster water conservation efforts in Arizona communities.”

“Water—Use It Wisely” targets people who are interested in conserving water and want to learn practical, realistic methods. According to the ADWR, a regional campaign partner, the campaign’s general message is: “Don’t tell us to save water. Show us how.”

The city of Mesa still owns the campaign but now has 20 regional campaign partners that contribute money to purchase media, including Tempe, Peoria, Chandler, Glendale, and Flagstaff, as well as organizations such as Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, Central Arizona Project and Salt River Project.

Mesa also allows free use of the campaign within Arizona; the cities of Tucson and Sedona, Luke Air Force Base and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are among the municipalities and organizations signed on to promote the message.

“When we created this partnership, the idea was everybody could pool their dollars, put money in, and then we could purchase media as this regional group rather than trying to do things individually,” said Donna DiFrancesco, conservation coordinator in Mesa’s environmental and sustainability division. “And especially the way the Valley is, with city upon city, these messages need to go across borders and not stop in one city and start in another.”

A survey early in the campaign indicated that 86 percent of Phoenix residents recognize the “Water—Use It Wisely” branding and the desired effect is for the campaign to shine through other issues people care about as a friendly reminder to keep saving water, DiFrancesco said.

“Sometimes you need those reminders that just give you that extra string around your fingers, like, ‘Oh yeah, I need to check my irrigation, I need to fix that leaky faucet,’ or whatever those things are,” DiFrancesco said. “It’s always hard with outreach when you’re not selling something. We’re not selling anything but how to save water, so we can’t base how effective our advertising is [off of] sales or anything like that, but we certainly can look at reduction in water usage.”

Phoenix residents and Arizonans as a whole have greatly reduced their water consumption in recent decades. But that change can also be attributed to better technology such as low-flow faucets and toilets, load-sensing washing machines and other modern, efficient appliances, DiFrancesco said.

“Water—Use It Wisely” includes more than 100 practical ways to conserve water among additional information on its website.

City of Phoenix

Education is the most powerful tool for building a water-conscious culture, according to Kathryn Sorensen, water services director at the city of Phoenix.

“You want to start with young kids and help them understand that, ‘Hey, water is precious here in the desert, you need to think about it differently,’” Sorensen said. “And then, of course, they take that home to their families and encourage their families to be water-conscious as well.”

The Phoenix Water Services Department offers free in-classroom presentations to students about water sources, Arizona water history and water, and waste treatment. The city also partners with the University of Arizona on Project WET, a Montana-based national nonprofit dedicated to delivering water education resources and organizing events to advocate for water conservation.

These students are learning about groundwater at a Project WET water festival hosted by the City of Phoenix.

“We do teacher training, we have free conservation material on our website that parents, kids, teachers can go order,” said Stephanie Bracken, public information manager for the Phoenix Water Services Department. “We also have workshops for residents as well that are very conservation-focused… year-round, and they’re at your local library.”

Gina Conrow with City of Phoenix and Wayne Drop, the Water – Use It Wisely mascot, answer questions during a classroom presentation.

The other key element of water conservation in the desert is landscaping; lawns and non-desert plants use a lot of water, and switching to native landscapes is an inexpensive, low-maintenance way to conserve.

“One of the things that we focus on here at the city of Phoenix is making sure that our water rates are structured to signal the scarcity of water here in the desert,” Sorensen said. “We actually charge more for water in the summertime than we do in the wintertime. And what that does is it sends a direct signal to our customers about outdoor landscaping, because if you maintain a lot of lush landscaping it needs a lot of water in the summer.”

In 1978, about 80 percent of single-family homes in the Phoenix area had mostly grass landscaping. By 2014, that number dropped to 14 percent. Additionally, water usage on a gallons-per-capita-per-day basis in Phoenix has fallen 30 percent in about the last 20 years.

“People have become far more efficient with their water use, and that means that basically, we serve the same amount of water in total… today as we did 20 years ago, but we serve 400,000 more people with that same amount of water,” Sorensen said.

Businesses in Phoenix see a benefit from desert-adapted landscaping, too, as water rates rise in the summer. Phoenix Water Services is partnering with Public Works and its Green Business Leader Program.

“They really promote recycling, so we’re plugging into their program,” Bracken said. “[We’re] going to be offering businesses free water audits and tools that they need to help them conserve water the right way, have the right equipment and ultimately save money on their bills.”

City of Tucson

The city of Tucson has been promoting water conservation programs since the mid-1970s with a substantial positive response from community members and elected officials, said Fernando Molina, public information officer for Tucson Water.

“There’s a strong ethic and a strong level of support for water conservation programming in Tucson, and we have a very low per-capita usage rate,” Molina said, noting the limited allocation of water Tucson receives from the Central Arizona Project. “If we can reduce our water use through efficiency measures that we take, then that volume of water that we have will go further for us.”

Tucson has a “full range of programming” to publicly promote water conservation among residents and businesses, including youth and adult education programs, rebates for water-efficient appliances and campaigns for low-water landscaping practices such as rainwater harvesting.

Landscape choices are important because water used outside — referred to as consumptive use — does not return to the city water system for treatment and recycling and therefore becomes “lost,” Molina said. Unaddressed leaks can have the same effect.

“If you know you have a leak, fix it,” Molina said. “Don’t wait until it gets really bad and your bill skyrockets.”

Water use in Tucson has dropped to the point that additional infrastructure is not needed, Molina said.

“I think we’ve been very successful, and its impact has shown not just in the lower demands for water, but we’ve been able to reduce some expenses because we don’t use as much water as we used to,” he said.

City of Flagstaff

The city of Flagstaff offers residents and businesses free checkups from the city to see if their water-using devices are working efficiently and to check for leaks, as well as rebates for replacing lawns with low-water-use plants and installing low-flow toilets and faucets.

The Flagstaff Water Conservation Program provides free check-ups for residents and businesses to find ways to help them save water (and money!).

Flagstaff also recognizes businesses that take extra water-saving measures by putting them on the city website, giving the business owner a certificate of their predicted annual water savings and promoting them as a Water-Wise Business on social media.

Flagstaff’s Lia Leaf Tea House is proud to save over 80,000 gallons of water because of participation in the Water Wise Business Certification Program.

According to the city, Flagstaff’s Water Conservation Program has helped customers reduce their water use by 50 percent.

Creating a sustainable water conservation culture for the future comes down to education and preparation — no single approach is enough.

“When California went through its drought a few years ago and things got really dire, what you saw there wasn’t so much conservation as just crisis messaging,” Sorensen said. “We would rather be proactive and look at conservation for the long-term, in terms of changing our culture, so that when crisis comes we don’t have to be reactionary. We’ve already built that culture of wise water use.”

Coconino County Sustainability Manager Amanda Acheson recently commended local elementary school children for their knowledge about the importance of water conservation after the ninth annual fourth-grade water ethic contest, hosted by the Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership and Willow Bend Environmental Education Center.

“Water conservation — everyone can do it,” Acheson told the Arizona Daily Sun. “From a renter to a homeowner, from big to small, budgets of all size. We can all be a part of the solution.”

Flagstaff’s innovative rain barrel program is very successful! We repurpose barrels from local industries and retrofit them with spigots for the public to use as rainwater catchment.

This article originally appeared as a “water, energy & natural resources story” at the Chamber Business News on January 29, 2019, and is being reprinted with permission. Water – Use It Wisely is proud to feature guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. The author of this blog is a multimedia reporter for Chamber Business News, a digital media platform that delivers insider information, engages newsmakers and addresses statewide issues that drive Arizona toward a brighter and more prosperous future. Graham Bosch graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2017 with a focus in videography, and he enjoys writing stories that inspire people to live more sustainably. Graham lives in Tempe with his girlfriend, Sabrina, and their dog, Winston, and loves to travel whenever possible.

The Chamber Business News provides the latest breaking business and political news, insights, and analysis that engages newsmakers and addresses statewide issues that drive Arizona toward a brighter and more prosperous future.

The post How Are Arizona Cities Promoting Water Conservation? appeared first on Water Use It Wisely.

Landscaping with Nature – Xeriscape

What is Xeriscape?

Landscapes in urban backyards or around a rural home generally accommodate fruit or ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers that serve a variety of purposes: food, shade, screen, color, or wildlife habitat. With the right plant choices and placement, pleasing and functional landscapes can be achieved that will thrive with minimum irrigation and maintenance.

“Xeriscape” promotes water-conserving landscapes and designs that aim to reduce the need for water, maintenance, and other resources. Xeriscapes are dry landscapes: desert plants are also known as xerophytes, plants adapted to or native in desert environments. Xeriscapes rely primarily on native or desert-adapted plants that survive in the environment with little or no additional water.

Arizona is home to three desert ecosystems, the Mohave Desert in northwest Arizona, the Sonoran Desert in central and most of southern Arizona and the Chihuahuan Desert in the southeastern part of the state. Native plants in each of these ecosystems are characterized by being well adapted to alkaline soils with pH between 7.5 and 8.5, to fluctuating annual and daily changes in temperature, and to low amounts of rainfall. Native plants have evolved with many of the diseases and pests common to each area and have developed tolerance or resistance, enabling them to survive.

All of these characteristics are reasons why native plants make a good choice when minimal maintenance of a landscape is desired. While desert-adapted plants from climates similar to those of central and southern Arizona may be able to grow here, they might not be ideally suited to deal with a hard freeze, the low humidity of May and June, and the local pests and diseases.

Native plants naturally fit into the landscape and preserve the look and feel of a place. Animals rely on plants for shelter and food, both in the wild and in landscapes around homes. Many native plants are superior in serving the needs of wildlife, while some introduced species do not provide adequate habitat or food for local animals. For example, native mesquite trees play an important role in the desert ecosystem. They provide shelter for birds, their pods are an important food source for animals, and young saguaro cacti find shelter in the shade of the trees.  Conversely, palm trees are popular choices for achieving a desert oasis look, but they lack the benefits that mesquite trees furnish for the local flora and fauna.

Using native plants in a home landscape also prevents potentially invasive plants from displacing local vegetation and wildlife. In recent years, grass species like buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) and fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) have invaded natural areas, threatening the extinction of native grasses and other plant species. Some of the non-native grasses create a dense carpet of vegetation, increasing damage from fires.

Principles of Xeriscape

Rainwater harvested in this cistern from the roof can be used to supplement irrigation of the adjacent xeriscape.

Xeriscaping uses several principles to create a landscape that conserves water and requires minimum resources and input for maintenance. Water-wise planning and design is the first step, based on the needs of people using the space.  While many desert-dwellers would like to create a mini-oasis close to the house, the lush plants used for shade, color, or fruit are often non-native and require irrigation, fertilizer, and pruning more often than xeric plants. Areas in the transition and desert zone further away from the main outdoor living spaces typically rely on the use of xeric plants.

Low water-use or drought-tolerant plants are a hallmark of xeriscapes. Thus lawns are encouraged only in limited areas that serve a specific purpose. In arid climates, the need for more frequent irrigation, mowing and fertilizing makes turfgrass impractical on slopes and large expanses unless the area is used for sports or play.

Successful xeriscapes include such tools as efficient irrigation design and equipment and water harvesting. Drip irrigation supplies most of the supplemental water to the plants, conserving moisture by putting it where roots are growing. Water harvesting has been used by humans in dry climates for thousands of years. Homeowners now can find many products to catch, store, and redistribute precious rain runoff from structures, in addition to using the proven principles of land contouring, where the soil surface is shaped to channel rainwater towards plant basins. The application of surface mulch helps conserve moisture around the root zone of plants and can prevent competition from weeds. Sound horticultural practices to maintain xeriscapes will preserve plant health and functionality of plants.

How to Choose Plants for Your Xeriscape Garden

A mesquite tree with annuals and perennials creates a shaded area for a water feature.

Decide what the space will be used for such as a shaded seating area with flowering plants providing color or habitat that attracts wildlife. Plants may be used as screens, or as striking background accents. Taking clues from nature in surrounding areas can be helpful in creating a natural setting.

Good tree choices that work well for native landscaping in most of Arizona’s lower and mid-elevation deserts are mesquite (Prosopis sp.), desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), and Arizona rosewood (Vauquelinia californica, available as a shrub or trained as a tree). Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina) thrives in naturally moist areas. With supplemental irrigation, it will develop a large canopy that creates a pleasant shaded area. For windbreaks or year-round shade, evergreens are a good choice. Afghan pine (Pinus elderica), Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica), or live oak (Quercus viginiana) come in various sizes and shapes.

Visiting local botanic gardens or demonstration gardens and observing what does well in yards or in nature make it easier for homeowners to find suitable plant materials for a new landscape. Cooperative Extension offices throughout Arizona have lists of native or low water-use plants that are well adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. New varieties of native and desert-adapted plants with improved performance traits, showy leaves or flowers, no seed production, and other desirable features are becoming more available in nurseries each year. Using plants that create a sense of place in xeriscapes can enhance any home in the Southwest whether in town or out on the ranch.

Barrel cactus, agave, yucca, flowering cacti, annuals, and perennials are arranged on a rocky site to create a beautiful and diverse Xeriscape landscape.

Check out some of our other blogs on Xeriscape:


Water – Use It Wisely is proud to feature guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. The author of this post, Ursula K. Schuch, is a Professor and Extension Specialist in the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She has statewide responsibility for environmental horticulture addressing issues in Arizona and the Southwest that are of concern to commercial horticulture professionals and beginning farmers. Her research includes water conservation and abiotic stress tolerance of plants.   

All photos by Ursula Schuch and used with permission. 


The post Landscaping with Nature – Xeriscape appeared first on Water Use It Wisely.

Why Do We Not Have Water Restrictions?

Q:  Why aren’t there water restrictions in place? We’re in a desert, we’re in a drought, and we are facing shortages of Colorado River water. Shouldn’t we be using less?

Actually, we are using less. That fact, along with robust water portfolios and shortage preparation, is why the Phoenix area cities do not need to mandate additional water use reductions at this time. The ten AMWUA cities have been achieving average per capita reductions of 2 percent or more annually. Since 2000, the City of Phoenix grew by more than a quarter million people, yet residential water use has actually declined by 12.5 percent. Valley residents have embraced conservation. We are becoming more efficient in our water use, and that trend will continue.

Most people aren’t aware that Arizona has mandated conservation in the most populous areas of the state for nearly 40 years. Water providers, industrial water users, and agriculture must meter all connections, report their water use annually, and achieve increasingly rigorous conservation requirements.

To meet those requirements, and just as importantly, to meet their own long-term water management goals, the AMWUA cities collectively implement more than 300 best management practices. For more than 35 years, the AMWUA cities and partners have worked together to build shared conservation resources and programs. Each city has dedicated conservation staff, as well as rebates, resources, and programs tailored specifically to assist their residents and businesses.

Conservation and efficiency are embedded in our cities’ long-term management strategies. It enables cities to stretch their supplies, build in resiliency, and reduce costs to customers. Arizonans have embraced conservation and efficiency as a way of life—day in and day out. It isn’t something we turn off, regardless of how flush with supply we may be.

However, it is far more than conservation that has enabled us to weather 22 years of drought and face imminent Colorado River shortages without needing to impose restrictions.

The Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.

  • We are #BuiltForDrought. Drought is an extended period of less than average precipitation. It does not necessarily mean a shorta<water, reclaimed water, unused water stored underground in previous years, and a certain amount of groundwater. The diversity of their portfolios enables the AMWUA cities to offset reductions in one or more supplies. Shortage of a given supply doesn’t mean there is insufficient water to meet demand.
  • We recycle. The AMWUA cities reclaim all of their wastewater, putting nearly 100 percent to beneficial uses — including energy production, irrigation, and underground storage for use in times of shortage — and offsetting the demand for surface supplies.
  • We are obsessive planners. In addition to meeting the state’s 100-year water supply requirements, AMWUA members invest in ongoing long-range planning, including research to understand future water demand trends, growth patterns, supply availability, impacts of drought and climate change, and potential regulatory impacts.
  • We store for times of shortage. The AMWUA members have collectively invested more than $400 million to store more than 2.4 million acre-feet of water underground for future withdrawal and use in times of surface water reductions. That’s enough water to meet the needs of the AMWUA members for three years, but it would never be used up that quickly because of the diversity of our water supplies. #TheAntAndTheGrasshopper

As drought continues and as shortage begins to play out, cities may need to implement their drought preparedness plans (sometimes called shortage plans).  All Arizona water providers are required to adopt tiered drought preparedness plans. These plans are individually designed to incrementally reduce demands during times of shortage in order to ensure there is water to meet the needs of each community’s residents and to support the economy.

Shortage measures can include efforts to engage the community, voluntary reductions, and mandatory water use restrictions. When supplies rebound, providers will most likely lift these measures.

Arizona leaders made difficult decisions early on, and Valley cities have diligently prepared for drought and shortage. This is why we have avoided water use restrictions and why they are unlikely in the near future. Many of the efforts implemented in other states, as emergency measures to address shortages, were established in the Valley decades ago as a way of life.

Irrigation Controller and Smart Phone

It’s as simple as texting WHENTOWATER to 33222 to get helpful watering reminders.

What you can do:

  • Visit AMWUA’s conservation pages for information.
  • Text WHENTOWATER to 33222 to receive monthly watering guidelines.
  • Attend a free class on landscape design, maintenance & watering.
  • Drought-proof your landscape.  We have plenty of resources to help.
  • Learn more about the issues.
  • Let your elected leaders know that wise water management is important.

Finally, stay tuned to AMWUA and your water provider. When more action is needed, we will let you know.

This article originally appeared on January 21, 2019, and is being reposted with permission. The Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) is one of 20 Water – Use It Wisely partners to offer water-saving advice and programs. 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


The post Why Do We Not Have Water Restrictions? appeared first on Water Use It Wisely.

Jaci Jensen | 602-295-6797 Contact Me
17215 North 72nd Drive, Suite 115 - Glendale, AZ 85308
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