Phoenix City Council Passes “Sustainable Desert Development Policy”

The City Council of Phoenix, AZ has unanimously approved the “Sustainable Desert Development Policy” in order to support eco-friendly development, while also advancing drought management and water conservation goals. 

“Our vote today has been years in the making and reflects Phoenix’s intentional, comprehensive approach to protect our water resources,” said Mayor Kate Gallego. “Our Sustainable Desert Development policy demonstrates that in the face of concerns about water security in the West, we are not resting – we are working, and we are innovating. Together with our suite of conservation programs, these strategies will safeguard our precious water supply for decades to come.” 

The new conservation guidelines include rezoning stipulations, such as: regulations on non-functional turf; a mandate to meet EPA WaterSense or similar certifications; planting of drought-tolerant and native plants; outdoor irrigation standards; enhanced standards for swimming pools; and participating in the city’s efficiency checkup program. The city’s Planning and Development Department is charged with implementing these stipulations and working with applicants regarding how, when, and where they should be used. The plan also requires future large water users – those using an average of 250,000 gallons daily, such as the city itself, resorts, hospitals and bottling plants – to submit a conservation plan, which the Planning and Development Department “will address best practices related to water usage” for all these cases, and stipulations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

In creating this framework, the city worked with the Verdin development – a residential neighborhood that was built with water conservation in mind. Landscaping was kept as natural as possible, with some areas remaining completely untouched by the developer and others using a specific selection of Sonoran Desert plants. All homes within the development are WaterSense certified, meaning that each home is at least 30% more water-efficient than typical new construction. With these measures in place, the homes in Verdin will use 55 million fewer gallons of water every single year than a standard subdivision.

Mayor Gallego emphasized that while Phoenix has enough water to serve current and future customers for 100 years, “We understand the urgency and that this is a precious resource in the desert even though we have managed supplies such that we can continue to welcome new residents and jobs to our community.”