The City of Phoenix has a couple of innovative programs designed to conserve water. One is a water-banking agreement with the City of Tucson. Both cities receive water from the Colorado River via the Central Arizona Project canal system. The agreement allows Phoenix to send unused Colorado River water to Tucson where it is banked in aquifers. If Phoenix needs the water, Tucson can direct equivalent amounts of its Colorado River water to Phoenix.  

“It is likely going to save the City of Phoenix millions in not-built infrastructure,” White said.

Phoenix is also one of several cities participating with the Bureau of Reclamation in the Colorado River Resiliency Fund. The city pays $5.5 million a year into the fund. The money is used to help large businesses and growers improve water efficiency. The water that is saved is stored in aquifers and allows Phoenix to use that water if its share of Colorado River water is later reduced due to drought.

At their meeting in Washington, D.C., mayors talked about the role Improvements in information technology will play in helping conserve water. White compares it to the energy sector where instant data on usage allows suppliers and consumers to make better decisions.

Another area of concern for mayors is educating the next generation of leaders in government, industry and environmental policy. Current leaders have spent years learning about water delivery, use and conservation. Transferring that knowledge to new leaders is crucial for successful water management.

“The idea of thinking about providing a secure, sustainable water supply for future generations is this notion of a public good that really crosses sectors — public, private, nonprofit — and requires us to train leaders in all of them,” White said.

Both White and Stanton plan to build on the initial meeting. In addition to facilitating idea sharing, the group will evaluate a series of principles developed by Decision Center for a Desert City, with the goal of refining and ultimately moving toward a consensus for implementation.

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions