Water… it’s quite the topic and center of questions these days.
Do we have enough? Where is it stored? Are we going to face stricter usage rules?
This week I attended a presentation given by Max Wilson who heads the City of Phoenix Water Conservation Department,
which was very informative so I wanted to share some tidbits.
The actual amount of rainfall hasn’t changed as much as conveyed in the media… the bigger issue right now is the rise in temperatures.
With spring time being warmer and starting earlier, that is making some snowfall evaporate versus melt and trees/plants along the way are absorbing more water. This year 700,000 Acre Feet of Water basically disappeared due to these factors. There are 325,000 gallons per acre foot which means 227.5 BILLION gallons of water didn’t flow
as had been hoped for after the wet winter.
There are lots of discussions right now about ways to help the cause including installing solar panels over the canal ways
(although much more loss occurs at the lakes due to surface area than over canals), raising Bartlett Dam which would have helped retain more water this past winter versus the water traveling over the dam and down through the valley, and enlarging Bartlett Reservoir.
All the development
has created an urban Heat Island around the city, which frequently causes monsoon storms to essentially bounce off the valley and skirt around us. “Cool Pavement” technology continues to advance and it’s also recommended to plant more desert trees like mesquites and palo verde. Converting to a desert or xeriscape yard doesn’t mean just rocks and a palm tree anymore.
Many will ask about desalination, but it’s very expensive
and we aren’t next to the ocean. Pulling water from the Mississippi River is another consideration, but that’s certainly not right around the corner, would be expensive and also take many years, likely decades to happen.
Some things you can do at home would be to install “smart” irrigation controllers and ensure you’re on a proper watering schedule. Many will water everyday during the summer months, but watering 2-3 times per week for a little longer duration is more beneficial as the water soaks further down to the roots.
Each city and municipality will vary, but some are adopting new policies with restrictions on grass and even pools (sizing).
With lots of new Industrial Manufacturing & Distribution Centers being built, many point to them as using too much water. While they can use a large quantity, the ‘waste’ water gets reused for cooling down the generators at Palo Verde Nuclear Plant or cleaned and used in agriculture.
Usage as a whole (for City of Phoenix at least) has gone down over time… 30% reduction today versus 1990. This being despite the population increase.
Right now we are in a “stage 1” level and we would need to elevate to level 3 for curtailment and usage restrictions to take effect.
It’s safe to say that many are working on the challenges ahead, but there is storage in underground aquifers, although the goal is to limit how much is pulled from there. There have been plans laid long ago, which have put us ahead of the curve, although we need to stay ahead.
Long story short… we are not running out of water tomorrow, but we also need to keep on improving conservation efforts and ultimately reduce waste to bolster supply.
Let’s hope this weekend brings lots of rain the Southern California, Nevada and Arizona so we can replenish some reservoirs!