Celebrating 55 Years of Collaboration

Published Jul 02, 2024

With an understanding of the water challenges that life in the desert can bring, mayors from Valley cities gathered to discuss water issues 55 years ago. It was then that they formed a unique and innovative partnership. Over time it would become a collaboration of ten cities working for the common purpose of protecting water resources in the Valley.

Through the creation of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA), and together with member municipalities - Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Peoria, Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tempe, who collectively serve over 3.7 million people, more than half of Arizona's population, but use only 11% of Arizona’s water – we achieve responsible water stewardship.   

Those involved in establishing this innovative partnership understood that collaboration on water issues and challenges would enhance economic vitality while improving environmental quality by safeguarding our water supplies for future generations. This cooperation would bring sustainability and prosperity through strong water management.

Over AMWUA’s 55 years, significant steps have been taken to protect Arizona’s water resources, and AMWUA has become the water advocate for our members. Working collectively with our cities and with regional stakeholders such as the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR), Arizona Department of Water Quality (ADWQ), Central Arizona Project (CAP), Salt River Project (SRP), Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and representatives of the Arizona Legislature, we have made an impact to our State.

When the Arizona Supreme Court limited the transportation of groundwater in 1976, AMWUA became a leading advocate for changes to the state's groundwater laws. AMWUA's then Executive Director was one of two municipal representatives who helped forge the 1980 Groundwater Management Act in marathon negotiations led by Governor Bruce Babbitt. AMWUA was a key player in the development of the 100-year assured water supply requirements and other laws to protect municipal water uses. Since 1980, AMWUA has continued to successfully advocate for our members, representing their interests in a host of significant efforts and policies that safeguard their water resources and infrastructure to ensure the water security of their communities.   

Our collaborative work brings innovation. Over 40 years ago, a comprehensive regional conservation program was created and implemented to help meet long-term water management goals. Together, the AMWUA cities and additional regional partners have built shared conservation resources and programs available to residents, businesses, and landscape professionals. Conservation is collectively embedded in our long-term management strategies and continues today. It has made a regional impact as it changed the culture of our landscapes, achieved conservation objectives, and made our communities more resilient.

The ten AMWUA cities have been achieving per capita reductions annually. They use roughly the same amount of drinking water today as they did in 2000, despite adding one million residents. Together, we have significantly reduced water use and weathered ongoing drought. That commitment will ensure our communities and economy continue to thrive. 

The AMWUA members have exemplified wise water stewardship by planning, financing, and implementing sophisticated management practices to protect and enhance their water supplies and ensure their viability into the future. AMWUA provides a forum for our members to share information and evaluate water issues of importance, reach a consensus on issues through discussion and debate, and strategize as we plan for the future. Proposed positions and policies are usually developed working with our members, including through the Management Board (consisting of utility directors and water services directors) and the Board of Directors (consisting of the mayor or councilmember from each city), all of which are fundamental to how water management operates in Arizona. This collaboration at all municipal levels is significant as it ensures elected officials are educated, engaged, and leaders in their communities on vital water issues and policies. This innovative structure has united the cities with the common goal of working together for the betterment and sustainability of our communities and collective economy.

We are proud of the foundational achievements and milestones this innovative partnership has brought to the State of Arizona and our impact for more than five decades, but our work is never done. Protecting and investing in diverse water resources and infrastructure while continuing sound water management is a vital, never-ending task. This will be even more important as Arizona faces serious water challenges, from having less Colorado River to having stressed aquifers.  

AMWUA remains dedicated to advocating for our members who provide water security for their communities with assured, safe, and sustainable water supplies, which is the foundation for our thriving economy and our way of life.