In an era of historic drought and hotter temperatures, EPCOR understands the importance of conserving our most precious resource: clean drinking water. That’s why we reuse, recharge or recycle nearly 100% of our water. Since 2012, we’ve recycled 18.2 billion gallons of water, enough to cover 55,000 football fields in a foot of clean water.
To be sure, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s recent drought declaration on the Colorado River puts an even brighter spotlight on the value of water in Arizona. And while utilities like ours do not face reductions in 2022, we do have a responsibility to improve the water sustainability of future generations.
Environmental stewardship is an EPCOR core value. It touches all aspects of water management, from enhanced conservation efforts to smart infrastructure investments to ensure we are as efficient as possible – and that not a drop of water is wasted.
EPCOR has demonstrated a commitment to Arizona’s long-term water management planning throughout several areas of our state, but nothing has been more prominent in recent years than our work to revitalize the San Tan (formerly Johnson Utilities) water and wastewater systems. Since we’ve taken ownership of this system, we’ve made strategic infrastructure investments to help realize the economic potential of our state’s fastest-growing region.
All of this is connected to Arizona’s long-range water management efforts. We need to build on our conservation policies, but we also need a new long-term water supply. Interconnecting water sources between systems and regions needs to go beyond the fractured framework of municipal and private systems.
Coordinated efforts from both public and private sectors need to be explored for larger projects such as desalination plants and long-distance water transportation projects. Neither of which come without cost.
EPCOR operates a 143-mile, 60-inch water pipeline in Texas to serve San Antonio. We know these projects can be effective. But they take time — decades even — and they take significant capital. In addition to vigorous discussions about conservation, our industry needs to work with regulators and stakeholders to develop sensible policies and rate structures that support customers through the costs of new supply.
The price of quality tap water is just one penny per gallon. For that single penny, consumers receive water that meets or exceeds stringent water quality standards. Reliable service and oversight are provided by highly trained professionals and complex infrastructure systems are built to treat and deliver it. But the future of water will require even more.
To adequately meet our future water needs, we must have an honest and transparent conversation about the value of water and what it will cost to deliver it to our taps.
The time is now to begin these conversations in earnest. Arizona is fortunate that smart water planning decades ago put us in a good position today. We need to continue that same kind of planning now for future decades.
At EPCOR, innovating and working collaboratively has been our history and it will be our future. Let’s work together on water policy to promote environmental stewardship, protect our groundwater supply and allow for responsible growth in our communities.
– Joe Gysel is president of EPCOR USA.