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Frequently Asked Questions: Drought Management

Water is a precious resource in a desert. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about Arizona's drought and how it affects the City.

Where and how does Chandler get its water?
Chandler’s water comes from groundwater, reclaimed water, and surface water (water from rivers and lakes) from the Salt, Verde, and Colorado rivers. Salt and Verde River water is delivered to the Pecos Water Treatment Plant through the Salt River Project canal system. Colorado River water is delivered through the Central Arizona Project canal system to Chandler’s Santan Vista Water Treatment Plant, a shared facility with the Town of Gilbert. Wells pump groundwater from below the surface to supplement drinking water supplies. Wastewater is reclaimed by cleaning it at Chandler’s wastewater reclamation plants and is then used for irrigation and in lakes.

What is a drought?
Drought is defined as three or more consecutive years of below-average precipitation falling on the watershed.  Extended periods of below-average precipitation are normal in Arizona’s desert environment.  It does not mean there will be a water shortage in Chandler. 

Is Chandler in a drought?
While the watersheds that supply Chandler's surface water may be in a drought, Chandler is well prepared and can weather this drought without mandatory water use restrictions. Chandler evaluates its surface water, groundwater, and reclaimed water supplies every spring and fall to determine if conditions specific to Chandler warrant activating its Drought Plan. Currently Chandler’s water supply conditions for 2015 do not warrant Chandler activating its Drought Plan.  However, we are mindful this drought could last a bit longer and encourage using water wisely.

How has Chandler prepared for drought?
Chandler began preparing for droughts decades ago. As part of creating its water conservation ethic, Chandler started its water conservation programs in 1990. Chandler stores water underground to be used when surface water is in short supply.  Every year, Chandler carefully analyzes its available water supplies and uses its surface water and reclaimed water first. Groundwater is used last. If water supplies are reduced in the Salt/Verde system or the Colorado system, Chandler could receive water from the surface water system not in drought, its vast groundwater reserves, or both. 


What is Chandler’s Drought Plan?
Chandler’s Drought Plan describes the demand reduction measures that will be implemented during severe drought conditions. The Drought Plan is designed for short term or year to year reductions. The Drought Plan has four stages, with each stage requiring a higher level response.  Chandler uses drought declarations sparingly because studies have shown that after the drought declaration ends, water use returns to the previous levels, and sometimes increases.  Chandler’s water conservation programs instill a water conservation ethic among its water users.  These programs lead to long-term, permanent water use reductions.

How will Chandler make up water lost if the Salt River Project or the Central Arizona Project reduces supplies?
Every year, Chandler analyzes its available water supplies and uses its surface water and reclaimed water first.  Ground water is used last.  If one of Chandler’s surface water supplies is low, Chandler will increase supplies from the Salt/Verde system to the Colorado system or vice versa.  If necessary, Chandler can increase its well pumping and use its water stored underground.  Even with the increased groundwater pumping during droughts, Chandler does not expect the groundwater levels to fall below their historic low levels. Once the drought is over, Chandler will reduce well pumping and groundwater levels will rise again.

Can a drought impact areas differently?
Low rainfall impacts farmers, ranchers, and urban dwellers differently.  The number of “back-up” systems the different users have influences the severity of the impacts.  For example, when rain does not fall on the range, a rancher only has a few alternatives.  Cities and farmers, however, can build dams and groundwater systems to supplement reduced water supplies during years with below average rainfall.  Over the past century, we have experienced wetter and drier periods.  The last 20-year wet period began in the 1980s, and the reservoirs were mostly full, conversely, the 2000s have been a dry period causing the reservoir levels to fall below their levels in the previous 20-year wet period.  Looking back over several centuries, we see these same types of wet and dry cycles.  Chandler has prepared for the wet/dry cycles and has managed its resources well.  Although the current dry period may seem to go on forever, it too will end.

Will Chandler restrict the practice of overseeding?
Chandler is not restricting residences or businesses from over-seeding. However, as one of many practices residents can choose to save water, we encourage residents who are not bound by CCRs to refrain from over-seeding, not just during a drought, but as a way of life.

Will there be water restrictions because of this drought?
Chandler has no plans for water use restrictions in 2015.  If future water supply conditions become severe enough, Chandler can implement voluntary water use restrictions.  In Chandler, water conservation is a way of life.  Chandler’s ongoing water conservation ordinances and practices, which reduce water use, have been in place since 1990.

What is the difference between drought response and water conservation?
Short-term, year to year, drought responses temporarily reduce current water use and may not be sustainable over a long period of time. Chandler’s water conservation programs are designed to instill a water conservation ethic. Chandler’s strategy permanently reduces water use through its multiple water conservation programs.  The programs include:

  • Ordinances requiring all new construction to install water-efficient plumbing fixtures.
  • Ordinances restricting the amount of turf and other water-intensive landscaping at newly constructed model homes, businesses, industrial facilities, and common areas that use drinking water for irrigation.
  • Ordinances requiring all new landscape areas greater than 5 acres to use reclaimed water when available.
  • Rebates for customers replacing turf with low-water use landscapes, installing low-water use landscapes in a new home, or installing a smart irrigation controller.
  • Free water saver kits to Chandler residents living in homes built prior to 1992.
  • Free water audits and leak detection services for unexplained high water use.
  • Educational activities, such as free water conservation classes, informative brochures, public presentations, school education, and special events to increase awareness of the importance of conserving water.
  • A water conservation webpage at www.chandleraz.gov/water, a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChandlerConserves, and an emailed newsletter, the WaterSaver.   

For more information about Chandler’s Water Conservation Program, please contact the City’s Water Conservation Office at conserve@chandleraz.gov or call 480-782-3580.

What can I do to conserve water?
You can conserve water by watering your landscape at night or very early in the morning, install a low-water use landscape, not over-seeding for a winter lawn, making sure your irrigation system works efficiently, watering your lawn and plants efficiently, checking for leaks both inside and outside the home, installing low water use plumbing fixtures, using a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway and sidewalk, running your dishwasher and laundry washer only when you have full loads, turning off the faucet while shaving or brushing your teeth, and taking advantage of the various water conservation programs the City offers. Contact Chandler’s Water Conservation Office at conserve@chandleraz.govor call 480-782-3580 for more information, or visit www.wateruseitwisely.com for more than 100 ways you can save water.

What is reclaimed water?
Reclaimed water is an environmentally sound way of reusing water resources while saving drinking water supplies. Wastewater from our kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and sinks is collected and transported through a system of underground pipes to a water reclamation facility. Here it is extensively cleaned to meet the State’s water quality standards. The reclaimed water is then used to irrigate non-edible crops, parks, golf courses, common areas, and to supply water to lakes.

Why is south Chandler so green and has so many lakes?
Most of the grass planted in common areas, golf courses, parks, and non-residential landscapes in south Chandler is irrigated with reclaimed water.  All the lakes in south Chandler are supplied with reclaimed water and serve as reservoirs that store reclaimed water needed for irrigation.  Purple irrigation boxes and signs identify areas using this resource.  Using reclaimed water allows Chandler to conserve its drinking water for future generations.  Areas, where the turf is irrigated with reclaimed water, are overseeded during the winter months and allow the City to use reclaimed water year-round.

Why are golf courses still so lush and green?
Many Valley golf courses use water that is not suitable for drinking, such as non-drinkable groundwater, untreated surface water, and reclaimed water.  Chandler delivers reclaimed water to irrigate the Bear Creek Golf Course, a recently opened public golf course, and the Lone Tree Golf Course, a semi-private golf course in south Chandler. Golf courses and resorts are an important part of Arizona’s economic health, providing jobs and paying State and local taxes. A 1997 study by the Arizona Golf Association and the Arizona Department of Commerce estimated that statewide, golf facilities contribute over $900 million to the State’s economy. 

What is Chandler doing to promote the use of reclaimed water?
The City of Chandler has invested heavily in upgrading its wastewater treatment facilities to create a quality reclaimed water product that meets all State standards for reuse and recharge. To date, more than 90 miles of reclaimed water lines have been installed in Chandler, and additional lines are planned in the coming years.  When completed, reclaimed water will be available to most of south Chandler. In 2014, Chandler reused 8 billion gallons of reclaimed water for irrigation of non-edible crops, parks, golf courses, common areas, and to supply water to lakes. In addition, 600 million gallons of reclaimed water was recharged at one of Chandler’s underground recharge sites. This reclaimed water will be pumped out in future years for similar water use purposes.