Feb 01 2022Share

Water conservation ethic more effective than short-term restrictions

By AMWUA Staff

Now that we have entered a Colorado River Tier 1 Shortage, and with the increased attention to our water supplies and drought in Arizona, residents and media continue to inquire why municipalities are not putting mandatory water restrictions in place. While many things contribute to that decision, the simplified answer is – because it is not currently necessary.

Typically, water restrictions are put in place as a temporary solution or reaction to a short-term problem facing a water provider’s ability to meet the current water demands of its customers. In other words, if a city’s water supply gets drastically reduced, the municipality may issue a mandate calling on its citizens to drastically reduce their water use. This is common in other parts of the country with more plentiful water supplies. They often have to put restrictions in place during a particularly dry summer or some other emergency because their water supplies may be running low. This is the current situation in Southern California, where communities will only receive 15 percent of their normal allotment of water from the California State Water Project, which is responsible for moving water from Northern California’s Sierra Nevada to Southern California.

Meanwhile, the AMWUA cities do not need to currently mandate restrictions even despite the fact we live in a desert, have been in drought for over two decades, and are in a Tier 1 shortage due to the following:

  • There is no immediate impact to the AMWUA cities’ ability to meet the water needs of our customers.
  • Despite being in the desert, the AMWUA cities are fortunate to have access to multiple water sources.
  • For decades, they have invested in those diverse supplies, which include water from the Salt and Verde Rivers and Colorado River water and the infrastructure necessary to maximize the use of those supplies.
  • The AMWUA municipalities have always recognized that if you live in the desert, you need long-term water planning, which is why cities don't just plan for the next year; they prepare for the next decade.
  • The AMWUA cities have worked hard over the last 40 years to develop and instill a conservation ethic through proactive municipal conservation programs along with common-sense requirements and ordinances rather than rely on restrictions that are periodically turned off and on.   

All of those long-term management strategies and our collective commitment to water conservation and efficiency have had an impact:

  • The AMWUA municipalities provide water to 3.6 million people but collectively use the same amount of water as they did two decades ago, despite significant population growth.
  • The AMWUA cities utilize only 11 percent of Arizona's water supply despite servicing more than half of the State's population and providing water to the businesses and industries that are the engine of the State’s economy.
  • Having water conservation part of our lifestyle has proven to be more effective than enforcing restrictions.

Although conservation by itself will not resolve water challenges, having it rooted in our daily actions does enable us to better weather drought and shortage. This behavior will be critical to our resiliency, just as it always has, and this is precisely why the AMWUA cities continue to make significant investments in their conservation programs.

Moving forward, our collective commitment to conservation needs to remain a priority, especially during challenging times. We must never forget that we live in the desert, and water is precious. That's why conservation matters, and our actions, as small as they may seem, do make a difference.

To do your part, learn ways you can increase your water efficiency by visiting our What You Can Do webpage.

Joanna Allhands with the Arizona Republic offers an additional perspective on why Arizona cities aren’t mandating restrictions. Read her article HERE.

To print or save this week's blog, a PDF version is available HERE.

For over 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

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