The Arizona Republic
Into the mind: Our economic growth relies on it
Phoenix City Council member Bill Gates explains why he wants the city to develop a long-term water plan.
Why does Phoenix need a long-term water plan?
I’m the kind of guy who likes to have a plan, especially when it comes to one of our most important resources.
As economic growth starts picking back up, the companies and businesses we are trying to attract and move to Phoenix will want to know that we have a plan to ensure a sustainable water supply.
This is more important now than ever as the 21st century has been the driest period in the Southwest in 400 years. Through education and water conservation programs, we can create a culture of responsible water users in our city. But we can’t go it alone. Phoenix must work with the state, the Salt River Project, the Central Arizona Project and others to ensure that the city has plenty of clean, safe water for generations to come.
Have you gotten much reaction since suggesting the idea?
We have had a lot of interest on this issue, from ASU students, residents and community leaders, because we all understand that water is our lifeline — personally and for our economy.
How could the city and its residents better conserve water?
The city needs to ensure that the water infrastructure needed to treat and deliver clean, safe tap water remains well maintained to avoid water loss and support our public health, safety and quality of life. We all need to be aware of our personal water use, indoors and outdoors. Water-saving technology should be a part of our daily lives and we should consider native plants in our landscaping.
Arizona has been a leader in storing water underground. Is there room for improvement?
Phoenix has been a partner in the Granite Reef Underground Storage Project since the mid-1980s. The Arizona Water Banking Authority is a tremendous asset to the state, allowing us to better prepare for drought. This being said, there is always room for improvement. The city must redouble its efforts in partnership with the state and other groups to ensure that our underground water remains safe and accessible for future generations.
Are there still too many grass lawns in Phoenix?
Many residents of Phoenix moved here from other parts of the country where they had large grass lawns. It’s understandable they want those same lawns here. Over time, I believe we will see a decrease in the number of grass lawns and that will be a very positive development. The city may want to consider incentives to homeowners who choose to replace their grass lawns with native plants.
Former Mayor Phil Gordon wants to desalinate water in Mexico and pump it here. What do you think of that idea?
Desalination is a potential long-term option. There are several other options for addressing the water demands in our region. As we consider how to tackle this challenge, we must choose the most cost-effective and sustainable approach.
What have you done personally to reduce water usage?
Frankly, not enough. I believe most Phoenicians can find ways in their homes and workplaces to further conserve water beyond low flow toilets, native plants and limiting running water. We are the stewards of our beautiful Sonoran Desert. We are responsible for protecting it for future generations and should act accordingly.