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Vice mayor wants review of Phoenix’s long-term water supply

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PHOENIX – With the Southwest gripped by years of drought and the nation’s sixth-largest city projected to keep growing, the vice mayor is calling for a review of the Phoenix’s long-term plan for providing water.

“As economic growth starts picking back up, these companies and businesses we are trying to attract and move to the city of Phoenix will want to know that we are going to have a sustainable water supply,” Bill Gates said Tuesday during a meeting of the City Council’s Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee.

Gates, a member of the City Council, questioned whether Phoenix and the state are prepared for growth amid lingering drought.

“It may not be the sexiest topic out there, but there are a lot of experts who can come to the table and help us to really set forth a plan that is visionary, just the way that folks did 50 years ago, for example, bringing forward the Central Arizona Project,” Gates said.

He suggested including officials from the CAP, Salt River Project and the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association in the discussion.

Gates said Phoenix isn’t living up to its potential when it comes to conserving water.

“Frankly, I think we can do a better job of conservation in this city focusing on the type of landscaping we use and also utilizing the technologies that are now available that do a better job of conserving water,” he said.

In an interview, Ken Kroski, public information officer for the Phoenix Water Services Department, said the city has multiple water plans that look decades into the future in order to maintain a sustainable supply.

“Our water supply is built for drought,” he said.

Kroski said the city’s efforts to conserve water include maintaining underground water lines and encouraging residents to embrace low-flow toilets and showerheads, desert landscaping and drip irrigation.

Dan Hunting, a senior policy analyst for Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said in an interview that Arizona has done a “fantastic job” managing its water supply.

He said Arizonans don’t need to worry about having a shortage of water in the next three to five years but well beyond that is a different story.

“We do need to look for long-term solutions and continuing conserving water and augmenting the current supply,” Hunting said.

Gates said Phoenix needs to prepare now rather than having to scramble later to secure water.

“So now we kind of have to look for that CAP of the 21st century so that we are ready for the future,” he said.