Water Advocacy: It’s Easier Than You Think
By Warren Tenney
Is this your year to become a water advocate? Yes, I know, we're all pressed for time, but water advocacy doesn't have to take much time. What it takes is a question or a suggestion to the right person at the right time. Sometimes that moment arrives on an elevator with your building's facilities manager, on a golf course with an HOA board member, or in an email to your legislator. Here are a few suggestions for ways you can get started.
1. Inspire your business to set up an appointment for a free water audit. Some cities provide free indoor and outdoor check-ups for businesses. These water-efficiency audits take little time, provide data-driven calculations about a business’ water use, and offer a list of practical water-saving and money-saving recommendations. They apply to all businesses, such as restaurants, churches or hospitals, auto body repair shops or small manufacturers. Recommendations could include such things as fixing loose valves or leaks in toilets or fixing a reverse osmosis water filter that is recycling more often than recommended. Businesses in the Town of Gilbert that implement suggested recommendations developed during a Water Wise Gilbert audit also receive marketing materials, such as window decals, table placards and landscape signs explaining how the business is saving water.
2. Bring in the city to check your HOA’s irrigation system. Water bills can be a contentious issue for Homeowners Associations and water rates are going up. Some cities offer water-efficiency specialists who will work with board members, managers and landscape contractors. In the City of Phoenix, water resource specialists can provide presentations about water efficiency and common obstacles to achieving the healthiest landscape using the least amount of water. In the City of Scottsdale, a conservation specialist starts by reviewing an HOA’s water-use history, which often means pulling data from multiple landscape meters. The specialist will then measure the amount of grass and desert landscaping in an HOA’s common areas and calculate the appropriate amount of water to keep the landscape thriving. The Scottsdale specialist then presents water-use findings to the HOA board, property manager and landscaper that include options for next steps. Your HOA could finally answer that frequently asked question: Would it be more cost effective to replace our aging irrigation system or make changes and repairs to the old system that would make it more efficient? Call your city to find out how it can help.
3. Take charge of helping the PTA find low-cost aerators for your school’s water faucets. An easy-to-install faucet aerator reduces water flow from 2 gallons per minute to .5 gallon per minute. It’s a simple money-saving project any parent organization could sponsor. Learning to install aerators on school bathroom faucets is part of the curriculum Arizona Project WET offers in its School Water Audit Program. University of Arizona’s Arizona Project WET offers four water-related programs for students in fourth through twelfth grades. It also organizes school Water Festivals and provides teacher training and professional development. As part of its School Water Audit curriculum, participating students measure the flow from their school’s faucets first as they find them and then again with a new water efficient aerator. They monitor use and convert their findings to gallons of water used daily. Then the students determine how much water and money their schools are saving each day, each week, and each year due to their actions. Is it time to bring this program to your child’s - or grandchild’s - school?
4. Speak up if you see ways to improve your apartment complex’s water use. You’ve probably noticed how often your apartment complex waters its grass. You’ve noticed sprinklers on when it is raining or the way the sprinklers water the sidewalk as well as the grass or the leak that creates a small fountain or puddle. Go ahead and let the apartment manager know that using water wisely is just as important to you as having a nice landscape. Explain that there are plenty of landscapes without grass that are just as attractive and colorful. Better yet, landscapes with desert plants and trees use less water and need less maintenance. Some cities offer to help apartment complexes, condominium communities, and other businesses defray the cost of removing all or some of their grass and replacing it with desert plants and trees. For example, the City of Glendale has offered turf replacement rebates since 1986. Glendale offers apartment complexes, HOAs and businesses up to $3,000 a year toward the cost of replacing grass with desert adapted trees and plants. Some cities also offer rebates to businesses that upgrade to a more water-efficient irrigation controller. These rebates are substantial, save water and help reduce the cost of landscape maintenance. Here are the links to the seven AMWUA cities that offer rebate programs.
5. Stay current on the impact of proposed water legislation and make your voice heard. This is easier than it sounds. AMWUA has a 2017 Bill Tracker that will keep you up to date on each proposal by the Arizona State Legislature that impacts water management, water investment, water policy, and water conservation. The tracker lets you know if AMWUA is supporting, opposing or monitoring each bill. Help make a difference. Check out the bills on our tracker and send an email to your legislator or the bill’s sponsor to let them know how you feel.
For those who are interested in doing more, some cities offer tours, courses and opportunities to sit on water and utility advisory boards. Here are a few examples. The City of Glendale offers Glendale University for those who want an insider’s view of how the city works. The City of Scottsdale offers a Citizens Water Academy twice a year that provides insight into the city’s water planning and operations. Glendale also has a seven-member Water Services Advisory Board that helps to guide policies and strategies on issues, such as regional collaboration and water resources sustainability. The City of Goodyear has a Water Conservation Committee that is developing recommendations for the city council.
Our corner of the world is arid and water is its top priority. Many of us have embraced a conservation culture in our lives and support others who understand the importance of living a water-efficient life. Now, we need to help inform those who may be new to our world - or too busy in their own world - to recognize the importance of using every drop of water efficiently. Is 2017 your year to start?
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.