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Growing Sustainably Phoenix – Arizona’s largest city and CAP’s second largest municipal subcontractor – is driven by the value of water and the need to ensure a long-term supply. “In a very broad sense, if you look at


everything that the people of Phoenix have done related to water since the city was founded, it has all been in response to or for the purposes of mitigating drought,” said Kathryn Sorensen, director of water services for the city of Phoenix. “It is our world.” Te city has spent “hundreds of


millions” of dollars acquiring “a diverse portfolio of supplies,” Sorensen said, adding “we acquired more than we knew we needed so that we would have a good buffer in our supplies.” Te process picked up momentum when the city began importing Colorado River water in the 1980s. Te desert environment required the right approach to water use. “We began 30 years ago and we


have been focusing on the long game,”


Sorensen said. “So, we try not to respond to short-term or current condi- tions because that can actually confuse our customers. We want to educate our customers to embrace a desert lifestyle no matter what the current conditions are. And so we focus on culture change and we price our water very strategi- cally to complement these efforts. We charge more for water in the summer. So, if you’re going to have a lawn, you’re going pay a lot for it because water is more expensive in the summer when you need the most water to maintain that landscaping.” Phoenix’s population is using 30


percent less water than in 1995, despite the addition of 360,000 more people, Sorensen said. She stressed an approach that features a Colorado River system “that has give.” In 2014, the city created the Colo-


rado River Water Resiliency Fund, in which about $5 million annually pays for things such as well sharing and stor- ing the city’s unused Colorado River


Members of the financing innovations panel from the 2015 Colorado River Symposium, L to R, Colby Pellegrino, Southern Nevada Water Authority; Peter Culp, Squire Patton Boggs; Kathryn Sorenson, city of Phoenix; Chuck Cullom, Central Arizona Project; Armin Munévar, CH2M Hill


water in underground recharge facilities. Te city created the fund by refinanc- ing existing debt and not increasing water rates. “What is innovative is getting a local city council to understand and agree to pay to not own water, but to pay to build collective resiliency,” Sorensen said.


Meanwhile, in Southern Nevada, which depends on Lake Mead for its water, the continual loss of water has been well-documented. In 2015, the lake level dropped to 1,080.18 feet above sea level for the first time in 78 years.


Officials are hoping the crisis doesn’t


reach the point of having to declare a shortage for the first time – an event that would curtail Nevada and Arizona’s water use.


Te situation has prompted an


unprecedented response by the SNWA, the wholesale regional agency comprised of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City, the Big Bend Water District and the Clark County Water Reclamation District. SNWA Colorado River Programs


Manager Colby Pellegrino told the Santa Fe audience the path toward funding wasn’t innovative but certainly necessary. First, the plan had to be presented to a sometimes skeptical public. “What’s really important in talking about financ- ing is getting your constituents to buy into the need for the projects, and we really have a tale of two rate cases when it comes to the financing,” Pellegrino said. “We’ve done one that was perceived very poorly by the public. We got a lot of pushback in the media, from our customers and then two rate increases subsequent to that that were received very well by the public and garnered a lot of support.” Success would have to be achieved


by clearly explaining what the agency expected. “We always had this mantra that


growth pays for growth,” Pellegrino said. “So, the existing customers shouldn’t


4 • Colorado River Project • River Report • Winter 2015-2016


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