News Feature | May 29, 2014

Arizona Towns Offer Financial Incentives For Water Conservation

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

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Would you be more inclined to conserve water if the government were to pay you for your trouble?  

Batting the effects of an ongoing drought, Arizona localities are testing this idea, offering financial incentives to ratepayers who upgrade their infrastructure.

"Scottsdale offers residents $75 for installing new toilets that use less water. Tucson offers up to $1,000 for permanent gray water systems in homes. Chandler offers up to $3,000 for converting lawns to desert landscaping," the Camp Verde Bugle reported

Some experts say incentives are the most effective way to motivate ratepayers to conserve.

"Making homes more water-efficient is driven primarily by government and utility incentives rather than homeowners simply trying to go green," the Bugle reported. 

That means it is in large part the responsibility of local government to enact policies that motivate customers to conserve.  The federal government plays a role, too. 

"What pushes that movement is the municipalities and the federal rebates," said John Smith, an executive at Green Plumbers USA, to the Bugle. "Anytime there's money involved it gets people's attention."

Some Arizona localities rely on water restrictions to conserve water. In the city of Safford, "residents cannot refill swimming pools or spas, plant new grass or install sod. Watering outdoors is limited to twice weekly. Water at restaurants comes upon request only," the Associated Press reported

When incentives and restrictions are not in place, voluntary water-use cuts are needed. 

Rick Gibson, a director University of Arizona's community outreach department, is working to educate gardeners about ways to conserve water. He explained in a recent Tri-Valley Dispatch editorial that conservation is paramount in Arizona. 

"Recent projections tell us that we really, for all intents and purposes, cannot expect an end to this drought in the near future," he wrote. "With the Gila River drainage essentially dry, we are increasingly dependent upon groundwater and Colorado River water to meet the growing needs of our Pinal County population." 

He suggested gardeners use low-water-use plants, known as "xeriscape plants." 

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Image credit: "Pile of Cash," 401(K) 2013 © 2012, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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