The City of Phoenix's Water Services Department is more than 100 years old and treats and distributes tap water to 1.5 million customers throughout a service area that covers more than 540 square miles. The Department also manages Phoenix's sewer system, and handles wastewater treatment operations for 2.5 million residents in five Valley cities. Reliability, quality and value require excellence in all aspects of the Department's operations; including ensuring the availability of water supplies through effective long-term planning, operating and maintaining massive treatment plants and more than 12,000 miles of water and sewer lines, performing more than five million water quality tests and measurements each year and providing outstanding customer service on a daily basis.
The term "scarcity" is often used to characterize water availability in the Sonoran desert environment. However, Phoenix has secured a diverse water supply portfolio that will meet the needs of this growing community for decades to come. The high level of water supply security the City enjoys is the result of its long-term planning, dedication to progressive water supply development projects and the efforts of our customers to use water more efficiently by adapting to their environment. In fact, over the past 15 years, Phoenix's average per person water usage has dropped more than 25 percent. The City's total annual water deliveries have remained flat during that period despite an increase in population of more than 30%. In addition, more than 70% of the City's wastewater is being treated and reused for various non-potable purposes, thus helping to extend the availability of its non-effluent water to ensure a reliable supply of tap water well into the future.
While the Water Services Department is proud that the monthly water/sewer bill for the average Phoenix customer is currently among the lowest in the country, it continues to work hard to improve efficiency and keep costs as low as possible. A recent Water Services Innovation & Efficiency Study conducted by an independent consultant (and reviewed by a citizen-city Water Advisory Panel and two City Council subcommittees) concluded that Phoenix Water Services is doing an excellent job maintaining quality tap water and sewer systems. Areas of excellence include: competent staff, water quality, system reliability and resource management, among others. The Study also identified additional opportunities for reducing costs, many of which were already being implemented by staff.
Some of the Water Services Department's recent cost-saving successes include: maintaining a AAA credit rating that allowed for a $43 million reduction in debt service through refinancing existing debt, closing the Verde Water Treatment Plant (avoiding $54 million in upgrade costs and $1.4 million in annual operating costs), selling land-holdings in McMullen Valley that were no longer needed as a water supply insurance policy (generating $30 million in revenues and avoiding $100,000 in annual operating costs), renegotiating an agreement to sell reclaimed water to the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (generating $4.5 million per year), reducing management staff by 25% and completing numerous operational enhancements.
Improving efficiency and maintaining low rates are important to the Mayor and Council, but providing safe, high-quality water is critical. Therefore, the Water Services Department has invested about $200 million in capital funds for water quality improvements in order to meet new, unfunded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations designed to minimize disinfection byproducts in drinking water. Phoenix implemented changes prior to the new rule's start date of April, 2012, and is scheduled to meet new sampling requirements when the first year of monitoring is complete in May of 2013.
Phoenix’s recently updated Water Resource Plan addresses a wide array of factors that will influence water availability and water demand over the next 50 years. Chief among these factors are the potential impacts of long-term drought and climate variability, availability of “insurance” supplies, and the ability of customers to adapt water usage to meet available supplies when shortfalls exist. The water supply assessment and deficit management strategies incorporated within the Plan are designed to guide water acquisition, water management and infrastructure actions necessary to ensure sustained water availability for current customers and anticipated growth over the next 50 years under a variety of demand and surface water shortage conditions. It can be viewed at http://phoenix.gov/webcms/groups/internet/@inter/@dept/@wsd/documents/web_content/wsd2011wrp.pdf
For more information on Phoenix tap water visit phoenix.gov/water At Phoenix Water Services – We Stand Behind Every Drop.