Groundwater is ‘hidden treasure’ that must be conserved

The message on the homepage of worldwaterday.org is powerful: “Groundwater is invisible, but its impact is visible everywhere. Out of sight, under our feet, groundwater is a hidden treasure that enriches our lives… but it must not be out of mind.”

World Water Day, which is held on March 22 each year, celebrates water and raises awareness of the two billion people worldwide who live without access to safe water. On this day, and every day, we encourage our customers to conserve water regularly. Some tips include fixing leaks or drips around the home, opting for drought-resistant native trees and plants, and installing water-saving toilet-flush systems.

We also encourage our customers not to take groundwater, aka that “hidden treasure,” for granted because we certainly don’t. Water plays an important role in what we do.

As a resident of Arizona, you’ve probably heard that our state has been in some stage of drought condition for 20-plus years. As an energy company based in the desert southwest, we know that reliable access to adequate water supplies is critical to generating power for our customers. And we understand that responsible management of this vital resource can have a positive impact on the customers and communities that we serve – and the environment.

To help ensure regional water resources are responsibly managed, we take a leadership role in Arizona’s water policy and are committed to preserving the long-term quality and availability of our water resources.

So, you may be thinking, what role does water play in producing the energy I use at my home?

APS uses three types of water to support power generation: surface water (including water from the Colorado River), treated effluent (also known as wastewater – a critical resource for Palo Verde Generating Station) and groundwater.

Groundwater is a non-renewable water supply because while it can be pumped quickly, it is slow to recharge. It is also Arizona’s reserve supply and should be conserved, when possible, to augment reduced surface water flows during drought.

Recognizing the importance of conserving groundwater, in 2016 APS set a goal to reduce reliance on this at-risk supply by 8% below the reference year 2014. By 2021, we reduced groundwater consumption by 32% compared to 2014.

We are committed to preserving the long-term quality and availability of our water resources, and we are guided by a water resource strategic plan that ensures sufficient long-term water resources for our generating resources, promotes effective, sustainable water supplies, and minimizes water-related operational costs. Our water conservation efforts include retiring older, water-intensive electric-generating units, upgrading to more water-efficient technologies at existing plants, increasing renewable energy, and supporting energy efficiency and demand-side management among our customers. Our current resource plan projects 95% effluent, 5% groundwater and less than 1% surface water usage by APS power plants in 2035.

It’s an important plan because current projections from the Bureau of Reclamation call for continued drought, and worsening conditions on the Colorado River. Based on this information, it is more critical than ever to be a responsible water user and share sustainable water practices that serve all of Arizona.

close-up view of water flowing over rocks in a stream

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