50 Years of AMWUA: Collaboration On Water Creates Urban Success
By Warren Tenney
In an arid state, cooperation on water is not always easy to achieve. That’s why the cities in the Phoenix Metro area are proud that we’ve been working together on water issues for five decades.
In 1969, city leaders had the foresight to form an association in which they could work together to ensure water was managed wisely. They understood that water fuels our economy. The Arizona Municipal Water Users Association or AMWUA was formed to facilitate municipal cooperation to secure and maintain water rights for urban uses. Today, AMWUA includes Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. The ten AMWUA cities serve over 3.5 million people, more than half of Arizona’s population, but use only 11 percent of the water consumed annually in Arizona.
Over its fifty years, AMWUA has been engaged in many of Arizona’s water milestones.
- AMWUA played a significant role in the passage of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act.
- AMWUA secured an agreement between Arizona Public Service and its cities to provide reclaimed wastewater to cool the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant.
- AMWUA helped to develop the concept for the Underground Water Storage legislation that allows cities to store water in aquifers and use it when needed.
- AMWUA helped establish the Arizona Water Banking Authority, which puts Arizona’s Colorado River water to use by storing it for a “dry” day.
- AMWUA cities supported the modification to the Roosevelt Dam to increase the storage capacity of Roosevelt Lake.
- AMWUA worked with Arizona water users and the Colorado River Basin States to address challenges identified in the 2012 Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study.
- Most recently AMWUA is facilitating discussion among its members about how best to implement the Drought Contingency Plan, an agreement to bolster water levels in Lake Mead and assure Colorado River water continues to flow into Arizona.
One of AMWUA’s on-going and most significant contributions has been to help develop a water conservation ethic in the Phoenix Metro area and Arizona. In response to the Groundwater Management Act, AMWUA brought together water conservation professionals from member cities and established a regional water conservation program in 1982. Through this collaborative effort, the cities have shared expertise and resources, launching programs and developing materials to help their residents reduce water use. Phoenix area water providers are recognized leaders in water conservation across the country. Each has programs and resources tailored to best assist their residents and businesses to use water efficiently. The ten AMWUA cities collectively implement more than 300 water conservation best management practices. These efforts have helped to stretch that 11 percent of Arizona’s water that the AMWUA cities use and avoid water restrictions. AMWUA cities are achieving per-household demand reductions of an average of 2 percent annually.
Today, as we face shortages on the Colorado River and other water supply issues, cooperation among municipalities is all the more critical. Collaboration among AMWUA cities should be encouraging to the residents and businesses that rely daily on the water our members provide. The AMWUA Board of Directors is comprised of a mayor, vice-mayor or councilmember from each of our members cities. This means we have elected city officials who are educated and engaged in regional, state and national water issues. The cities benefit from advocating with one voice at the State Legislature and when working with the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the state’s top water agency, and the Central Arizona Project and the Salt River Project, the entities created to deliver river water to our cities.
Too often cities are viewed as faceless bureaucratic conglomerations. Too often, residents do not recognize the services city employees work together to provide. The AMWUA cities employ more than 2,500 professionals just to ensure water is delivered every day of the year to your home, place of work, and the businesses you need and enjoy. The AMWUA cities provide water to small business owners who employ dozens of your neighbors and make sure child care centers, schools, colleges and universities throughout this Valley have water. Cities ensure water is delivered to your doctor’s office, your vets office and large medical facilities, such as Mayo Clinic and medical research labs. The cities supply water to sports facilities, movie and concert venues, museums, restaurants, breweries, parks, grocery stores, shopping centers, nurseries, and zoos. The AMWUA cities provide water to industries and businesses that produce computers and other electronic equipment, missiles, aircraft parts, chemicals, food, electric and gas. Because of the water we provide to industries and businesses, they are able to drive Arizona’s $320 billion gross domestic product.
AMWUA is proud of its role in the last 50 years of water management that has guaranteed this Valley’s economic success and our way of life. What is more important is what we do today and tomorrow to help Phoenix area cities. On behalf of its members, AMWUA is committed today and for the next 50 years to continue to protect Arizona’s water resources and to advocate for the wise management of those resources for the benefit of this Valley and for all of Arizona.
For 50 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 amwua.org.