Scottsdale municipal efforts exceed 6% water savings goal, officials say
Staff Reports | Digital Free Press
Scottsdale city officials are reporting reduced municipal water use by 38 million gallons in 2022 — making good on a municipal commitment made last January in the face of worsening drought in the Colorado River basin.
In January 2022, Scottsdale set out to reduce water use by at least 5% and asked residents and businesses to do the same. The effort came as the city officially declared stage one of its drought management plan — an action directly aligned with the tier one Colorado River shortage declared by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
City officials led the charge, they say, reducing water use by 6% when compared to the average of the past five years. Different city departments achieved water savings through a series of infrastructure and operational improvements like more aggressively finding and fixing water leaks, installing more efficient equipment, and not planting winter grass in many parks.
While water use among residents and businesses did not appreciably change over previous averages, the city saw record numbers in its grass removal rebate and outdoor water efficiency check programs during the year.
City leaders report numbers show that more people in the community are taking tangible steps to reduce their household water use, momentum the city hopes will build and result in more community water savings in the years ahead.
What water savings in Scottsdale efforts in 2022 looked like:
- Parks: Much of Parks’ water savings was accomplished by more aggressively finding and fixing leaks, implementing advanced drip irrigation systems, and reducing grass in areas of public parks that are not commonly used for recreation. This led to a total water savings of five million gallons in 2022 versus 2021. In turn, this also leads to a departmental water savings of 5.8% when compared to the five-year average. With nearly 62,000 square feet of grass removed at four parks in 2022, subsequent water savings will result in three million gallons of water each year. Additional areas will be converted to xeriscape landscaping in 2023, including a project at Eldorado Park. Overall, Scottsdale’s Parks and Recreation Department has stayed consistently ahead of the curve by keeping water savings below the Arizona Department of Water Resources allotment – in 2022, Scottsdale Parks used 25% less water than allotted by ADWR.
- Facilities: Scottsdale Facilities completed a cooling tower water reduction project, installing new cooling tower controllers at seven different city facilities: Civic Center Library, Police Department and Fire Department Headquarters, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, Police District 1, City Hall, and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. The new control systems save water: when compared with the same period in 2021, these systems used 19% less water than in 2022, totaling more than 894,000 gallons of water saved. With all seven controllers now installed, Facilities estimates the annual savings will increase to 1.3 million gallons of water for the 2023 calendar year.
- Water Services: For the first time, Scottsdale Water partnered with a contracting team, No-DES, to help clean more than nine miles of the city’s water pipes using a water recycling and filtration truck. The traditional way to flush and scour these pipes is to open fire hydrants and let the water run onto the ground until the system has been flushed; however, this new method recaptures and cleans that water, which saved the city nearly five million gallons of water in 2022.
- Water Conservation: The Water Conservation team enhanced marketing communication with customers to establish a 300% increase in grass removal rebates. This totaled more than 219,000 square feet of grass removed. With an average of 50 gallons of water saved per square foot, this gives the city a water saving estimate of nearly 11-million gallons per year moving forward. The Outdoor Water Efficiency Check program participation increased nearly 100% in 2022 from 2021, increasing water proficiency across more than 300 homes in the Scottsdale area.
- Communication: Public outreach and education regarding drought and conservation was extensive across city channels and platforms. This increase was due to the declaration of the city’s drought management plan which required increased outreach and education. Some of the biggest communications successes included 50+ social media posts, 14 direct customer communication publications, 17 citywide newsletter articles, more than three-dozen citywide emails, more than a dozen community presentations, and nearly 100 earned media placements throughout the Scottsdale viewing audience.
- Economic Development: While this area did not have direct water savings to report, Economic Development did contribute to raising water saving awareness in the business community. Their e-newsletter (sent to more than 11,000 recipients) included water conservation messaging and tools businesses can use to save water. Scottsdale Water Management Principles were approved, which added a requirement that City Council be provided with more information on water use when considering new developments. Principle Four requires large water use developers who require a general plan or zoning change to provide additional information on their economic impact and water use as well as encouraging conservation measures above and beyond existing requirements.
The city’s drought management team continues to look at internal processes and procedures to focus on water savings opportunities moving forward. The team will continue the goal of a 5% reduction in 2023 with the hopes of getting more residents and businesses involved in the water savings.