Jacques Cousteau said, “We forget that the Water Cycle and the Life Cycle are one.” Water isn’t just an asset to us individually; it is an asset critical to the long-term success, economic development, and overall sustainability of everyone.
Water History In Arizona
Water has always been Arizona’s most valuable resource. Native Americans understood that to survive in the desert, water had to be located where it was needed. When it was discovered that Arizona’s soil was able to support crop production, modern farmers had two options for water. The first option was to utilize nearby surface water supplies, such as rivers and streams. The second option was to drill and mine groundwater. Surface water supplies were so valuable that, in certain parts of the state, farmers used their land as collateral to construct dams, reservoirs, and canal systems to control and distribute water. Such was the case in the early 1900’s when the Salt River Project (SRP) was formed. This is where the Salt and Verde river systems provide water and electric power to farms and municipalities for much of the Phoenix Metro area. Years later, the Central Arizona Project (CAP) was constructed to bring about 1.5 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River to Central and Southern Arizona every year. It is a 336-mile long system of aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines and is the largest single resource of renewable water supplies in Arizona and is Surprise’s primary renewable water source. More than 5 million people, or more than 80% of the state’s population, live in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties, where CAP water is delivered.
In 1980, the State of Arizona passed the Groundwater Management Act to address the increased usage of groundwater, primarily for farming purposes. The excessive pumping caused a reduction in the groundwater supplies and an increase in instances of land subsidence. The Groundwater Code promotes water conservation and long-range planning of our groundwater resources. Through this Act, the most populated areas were placed into Active Management Areas (AMAs) where the primary source of water for use in farming and municipal uses must be from renewable sources, or sources other than groundwater. Since the enactment of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act the use of groundwater has declined, despite a growth in Arizona’s population.
Challenges Facing Arizona
Now more than ever, water management is facing significant challenges: available supplies of renewable water are limiting, demand for water is rising, delivery infrastructure is getting older and an extended period of drought is threatening current supplies. All of this leads to rising costs to treat or acquire new sources and to construct and maintain infrastructure to deliver water.
While all of this sounds dire, Arizona has taken considerable steps to hedge against catastrophic events; however, more work needs to be done to ensure sustainable water supplies. Such steps include the elimination of invasive plant species that tap in surface water supplies, increasing water conservation and education on effective water management, growing the number of water sources for the state, and expanding the abilities of the CAP and other systems to transport new water sources.
Water sustainability needs to be a top priority at the state and federal level. State and federal government must work together to continue to support water policies and programs that encourage water efficiencies.
What Does This Mean For Surprise
Along with federal and state leadership, the Surprise City Council also recognizes the vital role water plays in our daily lives, now and well into the future. That’s why we continue to expand our water supply to meet future demand. Some of our city’s best practices include efficient water management; streamlined water operations; maximizing of groundwater recharge; and we carry a strong, diversified water portfolio.
Another significant moment in our city’s water management history came in 2014, when City Manager Bob Wingenroth formed the Water Resource Management (WRM) Department to focus the city’s efforts in achieving best management practices. In addition to constantly striving to provide water services in an efficient and cost effective fashion, WRM also explores new avenues for the city to acquire new sources of water and water rights.
Furthermore, City Council believes there is much more to be done concerning water conservation. Council supports efforts in assisting residents to manage their own water use wisely. Wise water use by customers reduces the demand on the system, infrastructure, and need to acquire new sources as rapidly. And, efficient water use will save the customer money on their bill too.
I’d like to thank Surprise resident and water advocate Ken Wright and Water Resource Management Director Terry Lowe for their input and for educating us on their passion!
Lastly, I’d like to provide you with an update on the Stormwater Utility. The City adopted a Stormwater Utility fee which went into effect November 1, 2016. Customers enrolled in the annual prepay program for city sewer and/or sanitation services will see the annual Stormwater Utility fee for the January – December 2017 billing period on their annual statement. Unlike the annual sewer and sanitation fees, the annual Stormwater fee of $24 does not receive the 5% discount. Any unpaid Stormwater balances from your November or December bills will be included in the January annual prepay bill and the City is waiving all late fees.