City of Chandler adopts new water ordinance

Kelly Kennedy
June 4, 2015

Focusing on the future, the Chandler City Council has taken a major step toward ensuring a sustainable water supply exists in the face of a growing economy. On May 28, 2015, the Council adopted Article VI Sustainable Water Allocation Regulations to Chapter 52 (Water Services) of the Chandler City Code. The ordinance will allow the city to better manage its water supply by allocating water resources to non-residential users on a three-tier basis.

Tying the terms water and sustainable development together, the City of Chandler is looking at how it can use the water it has to build a sustainable economy. Starting in the 1980s, the city made a number of “legacy decisions” by purchasing water so that it can have a sufficient supply to support growth in future generations. The new ordinance will further strengthen Chandler’s resilience by enabling the city to turn down requests for new water uses that are not aligned with the city’s plan for economic development.  

For example, a non-residential high volume water user seeking development in Chandler would be limited to the tier I water allocation unless it receives approval from the city to use tier II or tier III water. Tier I water is the base allocation available to all Chandler water users. The city believes 99% of new users' water needs will be met by the tier I allocation.

However, if additional water is needed a user may request more by submitting a Sustainable Water Service Application. The city will then review the application and determine whether the user’s proposed project meets the city’s goals for development. If it does, the city may approve a tier II water allocation, meaning that the city will provide the water requested. If the city does not approve a tier II allocation, tier III water will be purchased by the end user and delivered by the city.

According to Doug Toy, the city’s Water Regulatory Affairs Manager, the thinking behind Chandler’s new ordinance was influenced by Morrison Institute for Public Policy’s 2011 report Watering the Sun Corridor, which examines the Central Arizona Urban Region’s water future. To Toy, the report essentially said “the choices made today affect the future—water should support development.”

Recognizing that new high volume water users can disproportionately impact the city’s ability to realize its plan for economic growth, Toy says it is important that the city has the ability to assess the benefits that high volume users bring. The new ordinance gives Chandler the power to approve water allocations based upon the development goals of the city. The new strategy will allow Chandler to grow, but it will allow it to grow in a sustainable manner by focusing on the interdependency of the water supply and the city's visions for future development.

RELATED: Watering the Sun Corridor

Morrison Institute blogs are intended to further public discourse regarding key and timely issues via diverse voices, expertise and experiences – including, when appropriate, in pro-and-con format. Blogs do not represent any official position of Morrison Institute for Public Policy or Arizona State University.