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March 4, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

Sustainability: Water Reuse

  |   Video
  • Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City has released a new report on water reuse in Central Arizona. Dave White, who co-authored the report, will talk about water reuse.
  • Dave White - Co-Director, ASU's Decision Center for a Desert City
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: sustainability, water, reuse, asu, arizona, report,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: ASU's decision center for a desert city release add report on water reuse in central Arizona recently and how best to use effluent as part of the state's water sustainability plans. Dave White is the co-director and joins us. Good to have you.

Dave White: Great to be here.

Ted Simons: What is decision center for desert city. What's that all about?

Dave White: Thank you for asking. We're a unit of the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU. So it's a research center. We're focused on the issues of water sustainability and helping to improve the decisions that are made about the future of this critical resource in our state.

Ted Simons: This report now is water reuse in central Arizona. Talk about the report and how you would like to see it used.

Dave White: Well the report was developed by our research center, authored I should say by Arianna Miguel, Ray Clay and myself. The focus of the report is to continue and stimulate an ongoing dialogue in the policy community about issues critical to water sustainability for the future of our state. So there have been a number of reports from places like the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, from the governor's office, had a blue ribbon panel on water sustainability. We're trying to continue that dialogue and push the conversation about particular critical issues in this case the idea of water reuse.

Ted Simons: Let's get a definition here. What does water reuse mean?

Dave White: Well there have been times in the past where wastewater, the water produced as a waste product from homes and businesses, was thought of as just that, a waste product to be disposed of, but increasingly communities around the United States are seeing this as a critical resource to be reused for beneficial purposes including industrial purposes, urban irrigation, agricultural irrigation, ground water recharge. Other purposes. So it's seen as an important management strategy to stretch our existing water supply.

Ted Simons: I used the word effluent like I know what it is. Give me a definition.

Dave White: Effluent is simply a treatment, type of water that has been wastewater that's been treated to a particular standard. So we can talk about wastewater that flows from homes and businesses, goes to wastewater treatment plants. That water can be treated to a variety of different qualities or levels for different types of uses. For uses on golf courses, in lakes and ponds and fountains, or it can be treated to higher level uses that involve human contact. It can also be treated to the level of indirect potable reuse where we're adding not treated effluent to other water supplies and then eventually reusing that for human consumption.

Ted Simons: Can you use effluent for recharging aquifers? Is there a concern there?

Dave White: Absolutely we can. That's one of the important uses of our municipal effluent is to use that water. We inject it into what's called the VADOS zone. We let it percolate down through the ground into the ground water supply and it's purified by natural processes in that way. It's an excellent way to take excess water that’s being produced through the wastewater system and recharge those aquifers to help create a buffer or a bank of water for future use.

Ted Simons: I know golf courses and irrigation, we're seeing treated water there. Burr are we actually seeing this ground water recharged right now with effluent?

Dave White: Yes. This is occurring now in Arizona. It's one of the major uses of the treated effluent is for groundwater recharge. The biggest uses are for irrigated agriculture. Treating it to a certain standard then it can be applied to crops such as cotton, it can also be used for urban irrigation for lawns and golf courses. Can be recharged to the aquifer or used for industrial cooling processes such as at the Arizona Public Service nuclear generating station.

Ted Simons: I would imagine that important plant uses a lot of water. Is a lot of it effluent? Treated water?

Dave White: Absolutely. In fact they take about 80,000 acre feet of water. an acre foots is the amount of ward used to flood one acre of land to the depth of one foot or the amount that would be used for two households a year in Arizona. 80,000 acre feet a year going to the Palo Verde nuclear generating station for their cooling purposes. They are one of the largest users, one of the largest nuclear power plants not located on a permanent body of water. It's an excellent example of how we can take this reused water and put it to use to support power generation in our community.

Ted Simons: From your report it sounded like the cost concerns are there, but they are there for an interesting reason in that competition for water kind of finds its own level, if you will, and impacts everything.

Dave White: Absolutely. What we're seeing is the potential for increased competition, increased cost for municipal effluent into the future. One of the important things we try to achieve in this report is to set up a policy dialogue to encourage a conversation just with our raw water or surface water supplies from the Salt and Verde River systems. We want people to have an open, transparent dialogue about what are the best and highest uses for this effluent. Should we be using it, for instance, to support the golf course industry in North Scottsdale? That provides important milk benefits and tourism dollars. Should we use it for cooling the power plant? For recharging the aquifer? Just like regular water supplies we'll come to a place where we don't have enough water for every beneficial purpose.

Ted Simons: Indeed. Back to the cost, if something happens, if the competition means all of a sudden ground water winds up cheaper than effluent, that's not a good thing.

Dave White: Right. We want to in the central Arizona area encourage policies, behaviors, incentivize the conservation vacation of our ground water and the main -- for the state does just that. It's one of the most progress ground water conservation laws in the United States. It was passed in 1980. If it were passed today, it would be one of the most progressive groundwater conservation laws. We want to keep that supply as a buffer for times of drought and to mitigate and adapt to the potential impacts of climate change.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask about drought and climate change. How much was that factored into what you guys were reporting on?

Dave White: We were considering that very carefully. One of the reasons we wrote this report is that several commissions, boards and other reports have focused on the issue of climate change. One of the common conclusions is we must increase the amount of water reuse as a strategy to deal with potential supply deficits into the future that may occur as a result of climate change impacts or drought or population growth. So while we agree wholeheartedly with this as a primary policy goal, we want to point out some of the challenges that we need to address. Thinking about competition, thinking about cost, thinking about dealing with the increasing concern over contaminants like pharmaceuticals and other contaminants in the wastewater supply. Let's deal with those now so that we can use this important supply.

Ted Simons: Are we dealing with those now?

Dave White: Yes, absolutely there are a number of important organizations both at the university and in the cities and in the regulators, department of water resources who are focused on exactly those concerns. What are the appropriate levels for things like pharmaceuticals that are making their way into that wastewater supply? We're able to detect those at much smaller concentration now but we yet have developed environmental quality standards for many of those pharmaceuticals either at the federal or state level.

Ted Simons: Last question here. This involves perception. Is it a concern and is it an issue with the yuck factor, if you will, the fact that folks hear effluent they hear wastewater, treated water and they say get that stuff away from me.

Dave White: I think one thing that's changing is Arizonans are increasingly coming to grips with the idea we should use the appropriate water quality for the appropriate use. We don't need to use our potable water supply for watering our lawns, for instance or our golf courses. I think people are really coming to grips with there are different qualities of water including treated wastewater that makes sense to use in different purposes. Will we reach a point where like in California and Florida we come to a place of direct potable reuse, where we treat that wastewater and return it directly to the drinking water treatment plants for delivery to households? It's possible. It's not in the immediate future, but it's possible. I think people will come to grips with that over time.

Ted Simons: All right, great information. Good to have you here.

Dave White: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: Tomorrow on "Arizona Horizon," our weekly political update with the Arizona Capitol Times and we'll look at a new report on the economic self-sufficiency of low income Arizona women. That is tomorrow at 5:30 on the next "Arizona Horizon."

Tempe LGBT Ordinance

  |   Video
  • The City of Tempe has passed an ordinance that gives the LGBT community protection against discrimination. Tempe council members Corey Woods and Kolby Granville spearheaded the ordinance and will discuss it.
  • Corey Woods - Council Member, Tempe
  • Kolby Granville - Council Member, Tempe
Category: Government   |   Keywords: government, lgbt, tempe, community, protection, discrimination, ordinance,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: One day after the veto of Senate Bill 1062 the city of Tempe passed an ordinance protecting against LGBT discrimination. Among those leading that effort, Tempe council members Corey Woods and Kolby Granville.

Both: Thanks for having us.

Ted Simons: Let’s talk about the city ordinance now, what exactly does it do?

Corey Woods: One thing it does is protects the LGBT community as well as military veterans from discrimination when it comes to employment, housing, public accommodation. You can have a fine levied against you up to $1500-$2500 for an infraction. It tries to codify things that had been set into motion by previous councils in terms of openness when it comes to city contracts. When people come to Tempe it makes sure they will not be fired for being gay or discriminated against for being gay or a military veteran.

Ted Simons: Sexual orientation along with religion, age all on the same level?

Kolby Granville: That's right. There's a usual list of -- from the 70s or 80s you see the race, national origin, you go down the list, gender. The thing that I think is exciting not just in Tempe but across the United States is that we now understand that that list from the 70's or 80's is incomplete. We're doing the finishing work now to add sexual orientation, gender identity as well as veteran status to that list of usual suspects.

Ted Simons: City employment. Was this always in place regarding city employment or was it something that needed to be codified along now with private development, private employment?

Corey Woods: This was something we have long had in practice in terms of our city of Tempe policies but we felt it needed to be codified into ordinance and extended further but also mainly to make a statement. We have unfortunately been on parody shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for years for things that as Arizonans we don't like to highlight. This is one of the things I think will obviously show the other side of Arizona, people who don't share some of the opinions we have seen by some of our legislators.

Ted Simons: Talk about this particular effort. How did it get started?

Kolby Granville: It went back -- I have been on council about two years. The initial thing that brought it to my mind was the Bisbee vote about a years ago. I talked to our allies and friends and looked at that. Talked to our legal council in the city of Tempe. That led to discussions for Corey and I about what sort of things that looked like they are within the purview what we can and should do. The Human Rights Campaign came out with a quality index about six months ago, they rated Phoenix 100%, as a matter of fact. Tempe did very, very well. We were in the high 70s, the third highest in the state of Arizona. We thought, this is our shopping list. They have told us what the new normal is and it's time we rose to the challenge.

Ted Simons: Is that how you saw it as well?

Corey Woods: Eexactly. One of the things -- we were actually a 72. To a lot of folks Tempe is known for being a very progressive community. A lot of folks contacted folks like us and said I'm surprised Tempe has that low of a score. We immediately started looking at doing things that would not only raise the score but extend benefits and protections to people that have deserved them for quite some time.

Ted Simons: Protects contracts. Explain that.

Corey Woods: You have to prove when you're doing business with the city of Tempe that you're not discriminating against people for LGBT status, veteran status, age, race, some of the things we have come to know. We don't impose criminal penalties but we do have civil penalties. We're not trying to really fine people. We're trying to educate people about the process, which is why this ordinance doesn't go into effect until March 29.

Ted Simons: Religious organizations. How are they affected?

Kolby Granville: Religious organizations aren't. This is different than SB 1062 where your religious understanding is a personal, private thing. In the case of Tempe we're talking about a structured organization. If the organization itself, if there's something about that that is contrary to the beliefs of that group they could still be excluded. If a church wanted to exclude someone based on their belief system this is different than 1062, which said I'm a religion of one and I'm going to do X, Y, Z.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, membership clubs, associations in general?

Kolby Granville: We looked to Phoenix, Tucson, peer city, San Francisco, said what have they frankly dealt the bugs out of a little bit. It's one thing to get to the new normal. It's another thing to open yourself up to litigation.

Ted Simons: There's been concern regarding bathroom policies in this state in thee past. How does this address those?

Corey Woods: It doesn't have anything -- I think the bathroom bill was something that was just an unfortunate way the Phoenix ordinance was characterized. It protects people when it comes to public accommodation, employment, housing issues. The realty is people when -- Kolby made a comment in the paper that people can sort of think what they want but the reality is when you come to Tempe you're not allowed to act on certain things, not allowed to tell someone they can't purchase something in your store because they are gay or lesbian. That's a very important message to send, especially in the year 2014.

Ted Simons: School districts, apply there?

Corey Woods: It doesn't, no.

Ted Simons: Okay, as far as implementation, are we looking at a cost factor here?

Kolby Granville: That's a great question. One of the things we both talked about, we talked with Phoenix, Tucson, other places, what is this costing you? How many suits are being brought forward? Is this a $5,000 or $50,000 a year item? Those cities the first step when something is brought forward to go to mediation, to go to a chance for people to sit down at a table and educate. Our goal is not to punish people but to get a city that's inclusive. What we found is in the case of Phoenix and Tucson costs were minimal, thousands of dollars if at all.

Corey Woods: Maybe they have had one or two cases that have gone to mediation but one of the things we had to talk to the business community about, the tourism community up front, we have not seen a rash of lawsuits against small businesses that have put them out of business. Frankly these things have gone to place. They have been enacted smoothly and you get maybe one, two, three cases at most that have reached the mediation stage.

Ted Simons: What public input did you have? Were there hearings? What did you hear?

Kolby Granville: That's one of the things that's the most exciting part about Tempe which makes Tempe unique from the legislature, unique from the case of the city of Phoenix where they had 500 people speak. Passing it in Tempe was a yawn. It was 7-0 vote. There was no one who showed up to speak against it. It's a point of pride to say we're already there. This is just a codification of the beliefs we have had for quite a while.

Ted Simons: Back to something you said earlier, when you come to Tempe there are certain things you can do and can't do because you’ve entered the public arena, the public square if you will. Why not, go back to 1062, why not protect those who have sincerely held beliefs against doing X, Y, or Z in the public square?

Corey Woods: As Governor Brewer even talked about in her veto there are currently state laws that protect people that have sort of religious freedom built into them. Senate Bill 1062 was sort of excess, it was actually repeating something that actually was already on the books. From my perspective, there can be basic religious protections and we outline them in our ordinance. At the same time we don't want someone saying because of my religion I'm not going to pick someone up in a cab or sell them a cake. That's not the kind of Tempe we want and that’s not the kind of Tempe our residents want.

Ted Simons: Yet those who supported 1062 will say people should not be forced to act against their faith, their sincerely held beliefs. How do you apply that to an ordinance like this?

Kolby Granville: I have heard that argument before with slavery, with roles of women. With roles of minorities, with the roles of -- the sincerely held beliefs argument has been used since the beginning of time. Of course the difficulty is sometimes you're just on the wrong side of history. I think that's the case here. That's going to be ultimately the case with 1062 . What you think is your own business. But when you interact in the public sphere we have certain social mores of the way people should be treated.

Ted Simons: You mentioned you called it a yawner as far as getting it through the council. Have you heard anything since the ordinance passed?

Kolby Granville: I have gotten three emails. Imagine a city of 165,000, I got three emails.

Corey Woods: I got none. It may have sounded easy as it relates to our public meetings but a lot of work was done in advance by council and staff to meet with groups like the chamber, the tourism office, a lot of people, equality groups, Equality Arizona, the HRC, to get support for this in advance, to work out all the language issues. Frankly there was a lot of work done by councils past. Juliano was a paragon in terms of -- people like Neil and folks before us, a lot of councils work to make sure by the time this came to pass it was easy to get through.

Ted Simons: Gentlemen, good to you on the program. Thanks for joining us.

Both: Thank you.