Janik: Water is the lifeblood of the desert southwest

Posted 6/8/22

While the water shortage in Valley cities is not yet critical, it is certainly in serious condition.

The Colorado River, which supplies water to over 50% of Arizona’s population and about …

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Janik: Water is the lifeblood of the desert southwest


Update 12:25 June 10

Part II Water: Lifeblood of the Desert Southwest

As a follow up to my initial letter on the desert southwest, I need to clarify that I used the term moratorium in its vernacular meaning, not the legal definition.  It is better said that we need to conscientiously review development proposals with an eye towards water conservation, while at the same time respecting private property rights. With the state’s assured water supply program, there is protection for our ground water resources thus sustaining our economic health. I want Scottsdale to thrive now and decades into the future. The availability of water is essential in achieving this goal.

I apologize for any confusion my use of the term moratorium may have caused.

Councilwoman Betty Janik


While the water shortage in Valley cities is not yet critical, it is certainly in serious condition.

The Colorado River, which supplies water to over 50% of Arizona’s population and about 65% of Scottsdale’s water, is running low.

The 20 year+ drought has reduced water in Lake Powell to levels that endanger the ability of Glen Canyon Dam to provide electricity and water to Page and the nearby Navajo Nation community. To beef up the water level in Powell, as directed by U.S. Department of the Interior, the upper basin states will provide 500,000 acre-feet of water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming.

It is not enough to add more water to Powell by borrowing from Peter to pay Paul; we also need to reduce the amount of water released from Lake Powell to Lake Mead. The lower basin states agreed to leave their water allotment in Powell for the current year. This is only a temporary solution. Of note is that we will be getting “rent” for the water we are leaving behind. However, experts believe the extreme drought will persist due to warmer and dryer weather. They are working on longer term, permanent solutions.

Scottsdale Water has been preparing for this shortage for over 20 years. We have a diverse water portfolio that includes Verde and Salt River water, groundwater, and reclaimed water. We have invested in wastewater lift stations, advanced technology for wastewater treatment and reuse, and water storage.

Our drinking water is not in danger. However, with the declaration of a Tier 1 shortage on Jan. 1, the Arizona supply of water was cut by about 18%, which primarily affected agriculture. Based on current projections, the outlook is that Arizona will advance to Tier 2a or 2b and possibly Tier 3 in the not too distant future. Tier 3 would have a significant effect on our Scottsdale water with surcharges and restrictions likely.

The time to act is now. Let’s be proactive, not retroactive. The city has asked us to reduce water use by 5%. With about 70% of residential water use for irrigation, this is the easiest way to reduce consumption. Make sure you are not watering the street and/or sidewalk. Adjust sprinklers as necessary.

Consider removing turf and replacing it with drought tolerant landscaping in the small patches that have over spray.

Use the WaterSmart technology -https://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/water/watersmart provided by the city to manage your water use.

Looking into the future, the new buzz term is to design a program for “Sustainable Growth.” My suggestions are pragmatic. Ensure that the current residents have sufficient water now and into the future. Provide water for the nearly 8,000 to 10,000 units under construction or already approved.

Recommend and mandate, to the greatest extend possible, the use of all available technology for water conservation for these units. Institute a moratorium on new residential/multifamily projects until the water shortage has been resolved. Don’t make the problem worse!

Proposals for new long-term solutions such as desalination and a water pipe line from water rich states are expensive and take years to accomplish. The desert southwest can sustain only a limited population. We are rapidly approaching, if not exceeding, that limit.


6 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • jason.alexander

    Ms. Janik calls herself pragmatic?

    "Institute a moratorium on new residential/multifamily projects until the water shortage has been resolved."

    This is illegal. Completely illegal, and anti-growth. Janik has effectively said that she will not approve any new projects. She is telling the investment community that Scottsdale is closed for business. Janik bristles at the term "No growth", but what else can we call this?

    Wednesday, June 8 Report this

  • jason.alexander

    Janik's targeting of multifamily housing is also the wrong solution. According to Scottsdale's water department, they serve 83,000 single family homes, that make up 88% of accounts, and use 50% of Scottsdale's water. The 53,000 multifamily homes in Scottsdale make up 5% of their accounts, and use only 16% of our water. Multifamily homes use, on average half, the water of a single family home.

    Scottsdale water usage actually went down in 2021, according to our water department. It was the 2nd lowest level in 6 yrs. Janik is mistaken on the facts. By restricting housing, she is also pricing families out of Scottsdale, aging Scottsdale out, making us less diverse and less welcoming as only older, wealthy homeowners can live here. She is creating sprawl and more traffic.

    This is not pragmatism. Pragmatism would create only multi-family housing, if the goal was reducing water using This is fear-mongering, whether she intends it or not. Janik may not view herself as ideological, but the effect is the same - she is stopping all growth in the city. Janik's policies will lead to reduced services and increased taxes.

    Wednesday, June 8 Report this

  • derouinjg

    Council Member Janik writes, generally, a good explanation of water supply issues in Arizona. She overlooks, however, the dramatic positive effects of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act on water supply in Arizona. Scottsdale receives surface water from both the Colorado River and the Verde/Salt river system to supplement (and reduce, to the minimum) groundwater pumping. The same rules apply to the entire “Active Management Area” within which Scottsdale is located. Among other requirements that must be met is the existence of a 100 year “assured water supply” for all projected uses. Because fully 25% of Scottsdale’s area is committed to the Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale’s water supply is even in a better position.

    Arizona’s GMA is an example of sound water policy that other states have not followed—to their detriment. Scottsdales own water conservation practices of using recycled water for golf courses in north Scottsdale are exemplary. Council Member Janik makes some good suggestions to further conserve Scottsdale’s water resources, but suggesting a moratorium is alarmist and demonstrates a lack of understanding of current law, current water practices and the current multiple water supplies to which Scottsdale has access.

    Arizona, in general, and Scottsdale in particular, are in excellent shape. Yes, the Great Salt Lake in Utah is drying up and is projected to run dry by 2040–and yet Utah still allows residents to plant and water turf. Fortunately Arizona and Scottsdale are acting more wisely and responsibly-and residents should know that. The concept of “water farms” was killed in 1986, the same year that a groundwater quality protection law was passed—one of only two in the nation. Arizona and all Valley cities, including Scottsdale, have been working on this issue for 40 years. Let’s promote wise water use, but not fear.

    Wednesday, June 8 Report this

  • xway.mike.norton

    Here I agree with Council Member Janik.

    Instead of two acres per home with lawns and a pool, ten homes per acre with a shared pool and desert landscaping.

    Wednesday, June 8 Report this

  • xway.mike.norton

    I'd hoped that my very sarcastic approach to Janik's column was understood for what it is. Bitterly sarcastic humor. But just to be safe, let's say this as bluntly as possible.

    If Janik truly proposes terminating construction of multi-family residences in order to conserve water, then we must terminate all residential construction, since Multi-Family residences consume vastly smaller amounts of water per person than single family homes. So if Janik wants to shut down MFR - then we best shut it all down, should we not? [very sarcastic humor there again - just to be sure that sinks in].

    California got serious about saving water 20 years ago. CA REDUCED water consumption by INCREASING construction of multi-family housing with high efficiency water conserving appliances.

    If Scottsdale truly wants to ban construction of water sucking residences, the 6,000' single story home on a 2 acre lot with a pool is the first thing to go - not the last.

    Thursday, June 9 Report this

  • xway.mike.norton

    Council Member Janik back peddling furiously from her call for a "moratorium". But not much, if at all.

    Now she says that she used the word "moratorium" in its "vernacular" sense - meaning that she uses the word "moratorium" in the same manner that the locals in Scottsdale mean "moratorium" when they also chat about "moratoriums" on construction.

    The Scottsdale NIMBY voters mean "BANANA" when they say "moratorium" - - - "BuildAbsolutelyNothingAnywhereNearAnything"

    We get it. Janik has bought into the BANANA mantra as have Littlefield, Graham, and Whitehead. This is quite literally how the economies of cities are crushed.

    Sunday, June 12 Report this