Municipal Water Leader
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Volume 3 Issue 7 July/August 2017 The Conservation Issue—Playing the Long Game

Conserved water is a critical source for water utilities and districts across the country. It has bolstered and stabilized supplies, helping cities to weather droughts and make each drop of water count. Conservation has also facilitated population growth—most major American cities, even in the West, have have seen overall water use go down, while populations have continued to increase.

No city better represents an effective water conservation program than Phoenix. Phoenix Water Services provides drinking water to a growing base of 1.7 million customers who live in the desert. We speak with Phoenix Water Services Director Kathryn Sorensen for our cover interview—she addresses how the city incentivizes conservation to complement its comprehensive and ongoing capital improvements program. As Dr. Sorensen describes it, “When it comes to water conservation, Phoenix plays the long game.” The results of implementing that philosophy speak for themselves—the city’s gallons-per-capita-per-day use of water has decreased 30 percent in 20 years despite serving 400,000 more people.

We also have conservation stories from across the West. Two Southern California water agencies—Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Desert Water Agency— weigh in on successful desert landscaping and conservation education programs, which have laid the groundwork for changing customers’ approaches to using water. We also hear from a conservation stalwart Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has introduced legislation to remedy a wrinkle in turf buy-back programs—the treatment of the buyback rebate as income for tax purposes. The senator has put together a bipartisan bill to ensure that those rebates are not treated as taxable income for ratepayers looking to conserve water.

In Texas, conservation is as much about partnership as it is about the adoption of water-saving technology. The Tarrant Regional Water District, which supplies water to millions of people in north-central Texas, discusses the evolution of its conservation outreach campaign and how those efforts have been a sound investment. We also speak with San Antonio Water System’s Karen Guz, who leads the utility’s water conservation efforts. She highlights the value of partnering with local organizations to maximize outreach and effectiveness.

Finally, Darren Hess of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District discusses how his district is undertaking a comprehensive plan that includes education and accountability to accommodate Utah’s burgeoning population. Mr. Hess says it best: “If conservation is to be successful, it must be done in a comprehensive manner that looks toward the long-term future of the region and can accommodate the anticipated growth in both population and development.” Like all the people and programs featured in this issue, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, and the state of Utah, is definitely playing the long game.

We hope you find this issue on conservation informative. Please keep us apprised of the new and innovative practices and programs your utility or district is undertaking to make conservation an effective part of your water supply portfolio.

Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader and Irrigation Leader magazines. He is also president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations, marketing, and publishing company he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@wateretrategies.com