Water Chart

Arcadia, we’re back with another monthly discussion on the many points that constitute “sustainability.” Last month, we unpacked that sustainability is – at its core – “Balancing our environmental, social and economic realms to create opportunity, beauty and prosperity.”

This month, we’re focusing on a quick history of water in our region, its importance, and what we can collectively do to protect its quality and preserve its availability for all.

We all know that we should drink 8-10 glasses of water a day, but have you ever stopped to really think and appreciate where that H20 comes from?

Let’s take a trip back to the early days. Our Native American ancestors – primarily the Hohokam in this region – laid the groundwork for what would become the backbone of a 21st century economy and society.

Using stone-based tools and grit, the Hohokam hand-dug through the caliche earth an incredible system of diversion canals and laterals that form much of the existing delivery infrastructure we use today.

Then came our growing agricultural and community settlements at the turn of the 20th century. In order to support this growing economic staple, regional farmers and landowners formed the foundations of what is now SRP. At the same time, the City of Phoenix incorporated its water operations and built its first – 30-mile-long – redwood pipeline channeling water from the Verde River.

Over the years, the city infrastructure has grown to support 1.7 million people with over 7,000 miles of water lines and 5,000 miles of sewer lines. Along the way we also built some local favorites like the Arizona Falls, which served as the region’s first hydroelectric power station and favorite swimming spot.

Move forward to the present day: our water system is the liquid backbone of prosperity and opportunity for the Valley. We have built a safe, reliable and equitable system that delivers millions of gallons to our homes and businesses every day.

Without access to clean and protected water and the infrastructure to treat it, our Valley’s future would be in jeopardy: economic attraction and industry would grind to a halt; our ability to fundamentally prosper and enjoy a robust quality of life would be endangered; our surrounding ecosystems would be irrevocably damaged.

Thus, it is mandatory for us to understand this thing that helps us to make our coffee at home and create semiconductors at work. Water doesn’t just deserve our attention; it deserves our respect and advocacy.

While it is true that the city has seen a drop of nearly 30 percent of water use per household, we can’t stop there.

We need to not only be water smart, but proactive when it comes to our H20. I encourage you to read up and act on some of the things you can do to support water use, quality and availability. If you want to learn about ways in which you can make an impact at home:

•Head over to phoenix.gov/water services for tips and resources on how to be water smart.

•Consider plumbing your new or remodeled house and yard for “greywater” capture and use. Think of this as “showers to flowers.”

Think about incorporating water smart plantings in your landscape plans and check to see you are watering at the right times to reduce evaporation.

•Participate in watershed clean ups and donate to local causes that protect our water upstream. 

•Support healthy forest management initiatives that protect from catastrophic wildfire (which jeopardizes water quality).

The next time you lift a glass, flush the toilet, jump in the pool, or water your garden, remember the importance of water. Give thanks for the folks who made it possible over the years and join the good work in ensuring we can enjoy it for our community and industry for hundreds more years to come.

— Colin Tetreault is a Senior Sustainability and Global Sports Scholar at the ASU School of Sustainability and Principal of S2 Consulting.