Chandler residents could save big on conservation projects - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler residents could save big on conservation projects

October 23rd, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler residents could save big on conservation projects

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Chandler residents who want to do their part to help conserve water got some good news with the last session of the state Legislature: It’s very likely they’ll be able to make upgrades to save water and get reimbursed the cost.

The city has had a program to help residents make smart water choices for years. Chandler officials estimate their program has saved 404 million gallons since 2017.

Now, the city could be getting even more money to help other residents convert grass lawns to desert landscaping, or installing smart water controllers.

State lawmakers approved $200 million for a water conservation grant fund. Cities and other municipalities can apply for some of that money to help residents make changes that save water.

“I think a lot of this will operate through existing programs that cities have already that have rebate programs,” said Lindsey Jones, senior program administrator for Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) of Arizona, which will be administering the conservation fund. “It’d be basically granting it to the cities and they would grant it on to the homeowners.”

Chandler plans to be among the first to apply.

“The new conservation grant … is really exciting,” said Simone Kjolsrud, Chandler’s water resource advisor. “We hope to take advantage of that. We would love to create some new conservation programs that just frankly, we wouldn’t have had enough funding to do in the past. So we’ve already got our shortlist of stuff.”

Gov. Doug Ducey has been pushing for a major investment in water infrastructure and was able to get a bill passed with the state having a large surplus. Democrats held out support until they could get the conservation grant fund added to the bill through a floor amendment.

The final price tag for the water augmentation bill is about $1 billion. WIFA, which will oversee it, has been overseeing federal investments since 1989. In addition to the money the state is putting in, WIFA also received more than $100 million in base funding from the federal government.

That money is split to tackle three goals. The first targets improving drinking water in disadvantaged areas. The second is replacing lead pipes, similar to the ones that contributed to the Flint, Mich. water crisis. The third is to reduce in drinking water what they call forever chemicals, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalky substances – man-made chemicals found in numerous everyday household products.

About $67 million of that federal money is forgivable, meaning Arizona will not have to pay it back.

The state money is being split into three funds. The Water Supply Development Fund helps rural communities primarily build out their infrastructure and secure water rights. The Long-Term Water Augmentation Fund seeks to find a way to deliver water to the state from outside of Arizona. The Water Conservation Grant Fund is the third goal.

It is the one that will likely benefit Chandler residents the most. Rick Heumann, the chairman for the Chandler Chamber of Commerce this year said every resident should consider taking advantage of it.

Some of the programs the city offers residents include having someone consult on landscaping; the city’s Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is meant to showcase smart ways to do landscaping in the desert; offers a large landscaping water efficiency program for larger water clients; and offers Water Wise workshops to all residents.

“The smart controller thing, I put one in about four or five months ago, it’s a great tool,” Heumann said. “It drives me nuts when you see people after it rains, and they’re watering their lawn the next morning. Smart controllers take all that into consideration.”