Arizona’s foundational five C’s—cotton, cattle, citrus, copper, and climate—paved the way for growth and economic prosperity. Now, with the addition of two more to the series – chips and conservation –  Arizona is poised to meet the next horizon of opportunity in regards to microchip manufacturing fueling investment in the state.

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DEEPER DIVE: 5 things to know about Arizona water heading into 2024

Microchip manufacturing began in the 1950s with Motorola’s Phoenix R&D lab. Intel followed suit, opening its first fabrication floor in Chandler in 1980, which marked a transformative shift from cactus-filled vistas to high-tech hubs. This development was accompanied by a network of support facilities and high-skill job opportunities.

Simultaneously, in 1980, Arizona passed the landmark Groundwater Management Act, reflecting a collective effort to safeguard the state’s vital water resources. Today, Arizona’s economic diversity—from craft beer to recreation to high-tech manufacturing—relies on robust water supplies. Arizona’s water providers keep a constant eye on an uncertain horizon, protecting and providing a reliable, resilient water future. Water and infrastructure investments are planned decades in advance with supplies secured. The proverbial ‘pipelines’ of funding, gathering supplies and strategic development culminate in the development of water infrastructure over the course of several decades.

Consideration for conservation, balance, and planning is necessary for the development of new manufacturing facilities. Optimization also supports the bottom line for these water companies and allows for Arizona to allocate this precious resource thoughtfully. Modern manufacturing facilities prioritize water conservation and create innovative solutions to recycle the majority of water used in operations, all while reclaiming wastewater for beneficial uses. Some facilities use reclaimed water at the outset, taking high-quality recycled water from utility water reclamation facilities through additional on-site treatment and into their processing and cooling operations. This dual focus on conservation and technology not only benefits the environment but also sustains high-paying jobs in the state.

While a common misconception about innovation is that the pursuit of opportunities to improve cease once a single solution is identified, this is not the case for Arizona. Planning the future of Arizona water will require ongoing close coordination with regulators, policymakers, manufacturers, users, sources, and treatment facilities to continue to see Arizona thrive.

The AZ Water Association, a member and volunteer-driven 501(c)(3), creates a space for water practitioners and manufacturing facilities to come together and collectively take on these and other challenges on the horizon. Embracing science-based approaches, its members are committed to ensuring safe, reliable water for Arizona’s continued growth. The responsibility for securing water supplies for generations to come rests on the shoulders of skilled professionals, necessitating close collaboration with regulators, policymakers, and stakeholders. With ongoing coordination, Arizona can thrive economically while preserving its precious water resources for generations to come.

Author: Jeanne Jensen is president of AZ Water. AZ Water is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization founded in 1928 with a membership of nearly 3,000 water professionals dedicated to preserving and enhancing Arizona’s water environment. AZ Water is the Arizona section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Arizona member association of the Water Environment Federation (WEF). With a diverse membership comprising water utilities, government agencies, academia, consultants, and industry stakeholders, AZ Water is committed to promoting collaboration, innovation, and excellence in water management to ensure a sustainable future for Arizona’s communities and ecosystems.