Every drop of water counts in Arizona, and officials warn that shortages could develop in the coming decades if more is not done to conserve the precious resource. City officials here in Phoenix say two possible water conservation strategies that homeowners could use are water-saving toilets and Smart Irrigation Controllers, which can be used to save water in sprinkler systems.  

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Toilets can account for one-third of indoor water use, and leaks can generate about 100,000 gallons of wastewater annually. With high-efficiency toilets, a household can save around $2,000 over the life of a toilet and nearly two gallons of water each time the toilet is flushed. Smart Irrigation Controllers can help homeowners preserve up to 50% more water.

Phoenix city officials say every resident uses about 100 gallons of water every day, but they say there are two programs, one for outdoors and one for indoors, that could cut that usage. Over half of that usage is for outdoor watering, especially in single-family homes. Max Wilson is the water conservation coordinator for the city’s Water Services Department.

In an interview, Wilson said new technologies like Smart Irrigation Controllers could be an easy way to save more water. “We are trying to come up with these technologies, like Smart Irrigation Controllers, that can help people save water without having any money, without having a big impact on their day-to-day lives.”

Smart Irrigation Controllers take the guessing of watering plants by linking this program to the internet.

This program connects itself to the web to know how hot it is and how much water the plants need, detects if it rains, and can set itself off for the whole irrigation cycle when needed.

“We find that most people overwater their desert plants. They put much more water on their desert plants than they need. That can hurt the plants,” Wilson said.

New Toilets Save Water But Get Mixed Reviews

Another way to conserve water is to use water-saving toilets; over the past 30 years, the average flush has been 3.5 gallons per flush. In the past 20 years, the standard has dropped to 1.28 gallons per flush, more than 50% less.

The water-saving toilets and Smart Irrigation Controllers cost about $150 each. The city has deferred much of the cost to encourage residents to install them through the $75 per device incentive program by sending in receipts and for the verification process to get some of that payment deferred, which is about 50% discounted after this process. Incentives delivered via check for the EPA WaterSense-labeled toilet and EPA WaterSense-labeled Smart Irrigation Controllers.

However, some plumbers prefer to avoid the new toilets. Most plumbers and plumbing companies would not respond to a request to comment on the toilets, but Chris, a plumber who asked that his last name not be used, said he is not a fan. “We do not like the water-saving toilets; they clog too much.”

Paul, another plumber who also asked not to be fully identified, said he is getting used to the new toilets that use much less water than previously.

“We want to get things done,” said Hayley Paul, the Arizona Policy Director for Audubon Southwest, in an interview. She pointed out that specific devices can ultimately help water conservation.

Paul’s outlook on irrigation controllers: “I am a big fan of what you can do at home to save water because I saw many people overwatering their landscapes and taught them that you do not have to water this much.”

Paul added that less water on people’s lawns means more water for Arizona’s natural habitat. “We want healthy rivers, healthy groundwater supplies, and enough water for people so that there is enough water for birds, plants, habitats, and wildlife. We want to improve water policy for people and birds, and that is just something that Audubon embraces,” said Paul.