> Home > Scottsdale Water Resources Division > Water Supply Planning > Scottsdale drought situation FAQs

Scottsdale drought situation FAQs

What is a drought?

Drought as defined by Salt River Project as three or more consecutive years of less-than-average rainfall.

Is the Valley in a drought?

Yes. The State of Arizona and the Phoenix metropolitan area are in the fourth consecutive year of less than average rainfall, signaling drought conditions. In fact, six out of the last seven years have seen below normal rainfall.

Should I be concerned that we’ll run out of water during a drought?

While nobody can predict nature, the Scottsdale area is actually a very good place to be during a drought. As a desert community, we are very vulnerable to drought and the impacts of little rainfall. That is why so much effort and so much investment have been put into assuring a long-term water supply. On balance, this desert community is better situated to respond to dry conditions that many locations where water has been abundant and taken for granted.

What are the water sources for the City of Scottsdale?

Scottsdale gets more than 60 percent of its drinking water from the Colorado River through the Central Arizona Project (CAP). We also use groundwater pumped from City wells (about 20 percent) of drinking water supplies). The rest of our drinking water supply comes from surface water delivered by the Salt River Project (SRP). Surface water supplies are always vulnerable because there could be a lack of winter snow pack on the northern mountain areas. Therefore, having more than one surface water supply provides a backup supply when the other source is not available. If SRP needs to reduce the amount of water we receive, Scottsdale can and will use more of its substantial unused CAP water allocation. Scottsdale’s groundwater supplies are the ultimate drought protection; however, additional groundwater supplies will be used only if no CAP surface water supplies are available

Are water use restrictions in place in Scottsdale?

At this time, Scottsdale does not need mandatory water use restrictions, because our available resources and supplies can meet total customer needs. However, the city continues to assess its internal water use with the intent of finding ways to cut back consumption without affecting services. The city also aggressively promotes voluntary water conservation year round because we live in an arid climate. Conservation is a way of life in the Sonoran Desert.

What has Scottsdale done to prepare for dry conditions?

Scottsdale is working to reduce groundwater use by utilizing more surface water because it’s the right thing to do to live in harmony with the Sonoran desert environment.

To purchase additional surface water, we were the first city in the Valley to institute a water resources acquisition fee. This fee is a dedicated funding source to buy surface water supplies, like CAP water. Every new development in Scottsdale since 1987 has paid this fee. We’ve used this money to more than double our available surface water supplies.

Scottsdale’s goal is to replace any groundwater that we do pump with groundwater recharge, as required by the state Department of Water Resources. In 1999, we dedicated the Scottsdale Water Campus, a state-of-the-art facility that treats wastewater to irrigation standards. This treated wastewater (reclaimed water) is then provided to golf courses in north Scottsdale to irrigate the turf. In winter, when irrigation needs are less, the reclaimed water is further purified to drinking water standards, and recharged into the ground to replenish the groundwater table.

Last year, we recharged more than 6,000 acre-feet (1,955,106 gals) of reclaimed water and CAP water at the Water Campus and at several other sties throughout the City.  We will continue to expand the Water Campus and its recharge capacity. We are also looking at innovative technologies to use some of our existing wells to put water back in the ground, instead of taking it out.

Why are the golf courses still lush and green?

Since golf courses use a lot of water, Scottsdale has developed strategies to minimize the impact they have on our water supplies. Scottsdale reclaims wastewater at the Water Campus, treating the water to irrigation standards. Golf courses pay all the costs to receive this reclaimed water for irrigation through the Reclaimed Water Delivery System (RWDS), which is the largest reclaimed water reuse system in the Valley.  

The RWDS delivers reclaimed water, and some CAP water, to all golf courses along Pima Road north of the Loop 101. In addition, Council policy requires that any future golf courses must provide their own renewable surface water supply in order to locate in Scottsdale.

Does Scottsdale promote water conservation?

Scottsdale’s Water Conservation staff work to help residents use water wisely. Last year alone, they responded to over 18,000 phone calls for assistance, and held 20 landscape workshops for 1,000 customers. The workshops teach people about best water management practices for their landscaping. Water management on landscaping is important since landscape watering accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all municipal water use here in the Valley. Conservation staff also perform residential and commercial site visits.

Scottsdale offers rebate programs to encourage citizens to install water efficient plumbing fixtures and/or convert their existing grass to a low water using Xeriscape landscape. The plumbing rebate for installing a low-flow toilet in a structure built before 1992 is up to $75. A single-family homeowner may also receive up to $1,500 for removing existing grass. Additionally, we offer a water audit program that gives customers a chance to get individual recommendations about how to reduce their outdoor water consumption. For more information on any of these programs please click here Conservation or call the Water Conservation Office at 480-312-5659.

What has Scottsdale done to use water wisely?

Scottsdale has done things at City buildings and facilities to reduce water consumption. For example, our City truck wash recycles wash water, instead of letting it run down the drain. We have replaced all of the toilets in our two largest City office buildings with water-conserving 1.6 gallon per flush models, and we are testing innovative waterless technology for possible future use.

Scottsdale Parks staff use a weather station to adjust watering schedules for turf at the parks, and a number of city facilities have participated in our Water Conservation Office’s landscape and plumbing rebate programs. Also, the fountains at the Civic Center Plaza use recirculating pumps to recycle the water. The Civic Center Plaza fountains are only run during business hours to reduce water waste because of evaporation.

What can I do to conserve water?

We should be aware that we live in the desert, and can have a limited water supply. Scottsdale citizens can learn many simple effective ways to save water by visiting the City's water conservation webpage at Conservation, or by calling the Scottsdale Water Conservation Office at 480-312-5659 for more information.