One of the perks of my job is that I get to travel a good amount. While I certainly enjoy being onsite with our customers and working with different municipalities, it’s also nice just to experience a new place. Even when I’m not somewhere for work, I can’t resist looking into the water systems of where I visit (feel free to make fun of me).
I recently went to the Grand Canyon with my family, flying in and out of Phoenix. While staying in the Valley of the Sun, I learned some interesting facts about how the water utility of one of the driest cities provides water to its approximately 1.6 million residents. Only getting an average of 8 inches of rainfall a year, most of Phoenix’s water supply is piped in or sent via canals (like the one pictured) from the Salt, Verde, and Colorado rivers. Innovative solutions for drought management have made the City an early adopter of graywater reuse and reclaimed effluent, which are used for irrigating parks. The region is also a champion of water banking, in which underground aquifers store excess water. As the 5th largest city in the US, Phoenix is creative about more than just water management, they also have impressive digital services.
Driving around town you see billboards advertising PHX Water Smart. On top of videos and answers to Frequently Asked Questions, this site serves as a consolidated platform for sharing water-specific information, events and resources. The City also has an open data portal that allows you to view the locations of parks libraries, and recycling centers, all GIS layered and displayed on maps categorically. “PHX At Your Service” streamlines all sorts of permitting, work order, and requests across all departments and allows online submittal of issues like water leaks and the ability to pay your bill online. By making information easy to access and providing resources that keep residents apprised of their service options and educated on their city services, including their water, city leadership seems to be doing a great job of effectively engaging their customer base.
These self-service options, along with the ongoing water source diversification efforts and drought planning show Phoenix is willing to invest in innovation and resiliency and I was happy in my short stay in this desert city that I was able to learn about it.
Additional sources I recommend for the interested: