Kyl Center for Water Policy

Mission statement

The Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute seeks to generate policy proposals for public evaluation and subsequent consideration for possible action or adoption. An Arizona State University resource, the Kyl Center promotes research, analysis, collaboration and open dialogue to identify opportunities for consensus to ensure sound water stewardship for Arizona and the Western region for generations to come.

– Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute:
   Seeking water solutions through consensus

– Sarah Porter named inaugural director

– Arizona’s Water Future

Kyl Center for Water Policy Board of Advisors




Arizona Department of Water Resources

Arizona Municipal Water Users Association

Central Arizona Project

Future H2O

West Valley Water Association


The Price of Uncertainty

By Kathleen Ferris, Sarah Porter, Grady Gammage Jr., Ana Lopez

What water-related questions do people at the cutting edge of economic development ask when evaluating a site for potential investment? To find out, the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute surveyed corporate site location consultants and real estate developers who work in Arizona. The results of this survey are presented in the Kyl Center’s new report, The Price of Uncertainty.
Our surveys confirmed that today there is a heightened awareness of the importance of secure water supplies. But our survey respondents also made clear that they don’t have time to work through complications regarding water rights. Sites with uncertainty regarding the legal availability of water “eliminate themselves.”
Unfortunately, many Arizona land owners and communities lack the water supply certainty, and this stands to impair economic development and sustainable water stewardship. One of the biggest impediments is the Gila Watershed Adjudication, a court proceeding to determine the nature and priority of some 57,000 water rights claims. The Price of Uncertainty explores how the Gila Adjudication clouds the water certainty individuals, businesses and communities need for sound water stewardship and future prosperity.



Craig: A River Runs Through Our Pipes

By Susan Craig, water policy analyst for the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute

These days there's more and more talk of the possibility of reductions in Arizona's surface water supplies and whether the state will need to find additional water. We may not have to look too far. Consider the large, relatively inexpensive and nearby source - water lost through leaking pipes and outdated infrastructure. If we can reduce this "system water" loss, we can secure a very large volume of water.

Let's break it down.

In the United States, leaking pipes lose 2.6 trillion gallons of water annually, approximately 17 percent of the total water our country consumes. Arizona water providers do better than the national average. However, approximately 38 billion gallons of system water are "lost and unaccounted for" each year in the state. For perspective, a typical family of four uses around 146,000 gallons per year. Arizona's system water loss could supply over 260,000 households per year, or a million people.

Within our state's five Active Management Areas (AMAs), basins where groundwater is managed (see map), utilities are required to keep lost and unaccounted water below 10 percent for large municipal providers (serving more than 250 acre feet of water) and 15 percent for small providers. These utilities typically do a good job of minimizing losses. Last year, average lost and unaccounted for water within the AMAs was approximately 7 percent. Still, these utilities provide water to over 80 percent of Arizona's population, so that 7 percent adds up to 25 billion gallons of water per year.

Outside the AMAs, however, there are no system loss regulations and annual water loss averages an estimated 21 percent, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR). These losses account for approximately 13 billion gallons of water.

In simple terms, lost and unaccounted for water is non-revenue water. It is calculated by taking the total water supply treated by a water utility, minus the volume of water delivered to customers. These losses are either real physical losses caused by leaking pipes and outdated infrastructure or apparent losses due to slow meters, billing issues and theft. Regardless, there are significant savings and revenue to be had by replacing or rehabilitating leaky water mains.

Realizing the gains from minimizing lost water, agencies are stepping up to help utilities assess and improve water loss performance. The state's Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) and ADWR are providing a free hands-on water audit training program, the first step to controlling water loss. This training will enable the utilities to determine causes of losses - leakage, meter error or water theft - and costs of uncaptured revenue. In addition, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) is investigating company-side conservation, reporting requirements and new loss calculation metrics for the 350 private water systems it regulates. Arizona is one of 11 states offering technical assistance for water loss management.

The Arizona Municipal Water Utilities Association (AMWUA) also is working to provide training and technical assistance to help their member cities with ongoing efforts to control water loss. AMWUA cities - 10 large municipalities in Maricopa County - deliver water to more than half the state's population, which means huge volumes of water. Even with their low water loss rates, understanding the causes and costs of system losses makes good business sense and has the potential to recover additional water.

Recovering lost revenue means money can be spent on other efforts such as preventive maintenance, which reduces infrastructure failure, increasing reliability and preserving water for other uses. This all impacts the utility's bottom line and ultimately the customers' bottom line.

Controlling water loss is a win-win for Arizona, utilities and rate payers. There is a very large amount of water that can be recaptured relatively inexpensively, and there are programs out there to help. 

Porter: Day Zero and the Politics of Water

By Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute

Recently, I got an email from a producer of a national television news show, subject line, “On deadline for tonight!” (They always start by saying they’re on deadline.)

She was working on a story about “Day Zero” in the South African city of Cape Town. A metropolis of 3.7 million people, Cape Town is in the throes of a severe drought and close to exhausting its stored water supply. “Day Zero” is the projected date when the system runs dry, the taps are turned off and residents will be reduced to extremely limited rations of hauled water.  

The news producer was interested in identifying Arizona cities which, “while not in dire straits,” are also vulnerable. “A little research” she wrote, had led her to Phoenix and other nearby cities that rely on water from the over-allocated, drought-stricken, climate change-impacted Colorado River. She asked me to confirm “in broad terms” that this was accurate and provide “a short synopsis (a few sentences) about the issues.”

It isn’t unusual for me to receive an inquiry like this. Seemingly any news story about a city experiencing water stress can trigger a journalist’s interest in what’s happening in the Phoenix area, and a little research will naturally take him or her to ominous news stories about the Colorado River.  

Instead of sending the short confirming synopsis, as requested, I sent a 600-plus word reply explaining why comparing Phoenix to Cape Town was inapposite. Yes, Colorado River supplies are vulnerable, and the Central Arizona Project (CAP) has junior priority, so Central and Southern Arizona would be first in line for cuts. But that’s only part of the story. In the event of a shortage declaration, cuts would fall first on agricultural users of CAP water, not municipalities.

Moreover, Phoenix and other larger, older Valley cities have diverse water portfolios that include Salt-Verde system supplies, groundwater and reclaimed water (effluent) in addition to Colorado River water. In most of these cities, available water supplies exceed demand, a buffer against shortage. In addition, Valley cities, the state and other entities have been banking reserve water supplies. And, finally, Arizona, Mexico and the other Colorado Basin states have been working on measures to avoid a disruptive or catastrophic shortage scenario.

The news producer wrote back to ask my thoughts on what happened to make Phoenix’s situation so different from Cape Town’s. What did each city do or not do? I replied that I’m no expert on South Africa’s water issues, and the reasons Day Zero now looms are no doubt complex. But Cape Town sits on a coast and is surrounded by agriculture. That the city has become so severely water stressed when ocean desalination and water sharing appear to be viable may point to political dysfunction. At least one commentator blames partisan politics.

In enacting the 1980 Groundwater Management Act, Arizona tied growth in the Phoenix and Tucson areas to long-term water supplies. Over the years, cities and water utilities have made significant investments in water storage and, more recently, water re-use. As a result, Arizona water managers have long timelines for anticipating shortfalls and planning for future supplies. But this comparative water resilience didn’t come easily. Each step along the way required persistence, hard compromises and a shared commitment to future generations.

Kyl Center, Thursday, March 16, 2017
Porter: The future of desalination in Arizona

Arizona Capitol Times, Thursday, April 21, 2016
Gysel: Arizona’s voice in national water policy discussions

AMWUA, Jan. 4, 2016
Ferris: Five Actions To Secure Arizona’s Water Future

The Arizona Republic, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016
Porter: 2 legislative priorities for Arizona water

Kyl Center, Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Porter: Arizona, we need a deeper understanding

Arizona Capitol Times, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015
Porter: Water management article overlooked key facts

Kyl Center, Friday, July 24, 2015
Porter: Getting a handle on Arizona’s water future

Kyl Center, Wednesday May 20, 2015
Porter: Putting agricultural water demands in perspective

AMWUA, Monday, April 13, 2015
Ferris: Why AZ is better prepared for drought than Calif.

















Arizona Capitol Times, October 31, 2018
Meet the CAWCD candidates

Phoenix New Times, October 31, 2018

Understanding the Central Arizona Project

Arizona Capitol Times, October 30, 2018

Watching the water line
Watching the water lineWatching the water line

The Arizona Republic, October 26, 2018

Drought contingency plan faces hurdles

Climate Connections, Thursday, August 30, 2018

Water management strategies key to Southwest's resilience

3TV/CBS5, Monday, September 4, 2018

Gov. Ducey appoints Kyl to AZ Senate

Chamber Business News, Friday, August 17, 2018

Water interests of concern for builders, developers

KJZZ, Tuesday, July 25, 2018

Community growth dependent on water management

Arizona Horizon, Monday, May 21, 2018

Finding solutions to the water rights fight

Kyl Center for Water Policy, Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Kyl Center welcomes new analyst

Arizona Republic, Wednesday, Sep. 27, 2017

Accord with Mexico set to prevent water crises


West Valley Tribune, Monday, June 12, 2017
Education most important in debate of water

Daily Courier, Friday, May 12, 2017
A critical look at Arizona's groundwater

Cronkite News, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017

Education crucial for water conservation

ASU Now, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017
Visiting author quenches water needs

Arizona Daily Sun, Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Havasupai Tribe asserting its water rights for first time

The Arizona Republic, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016
New Arizona Prize winner announced

Arizona Big Media, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016
The urban heat island

ASUNow, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016
The future of water in the Southwest

Arizona Horizon, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016
Documentary highlights need for water use regulations

The Arizona Republic, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016
The success of Arizona’s ongoing water challenge

KPNX/12News, Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Water experts speak out on the issues

KPNX/12News, Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Questions envelope new water-bottling plant

The Arizona Republic, Monday, May 23, 2016
Nestle Waters to open Phoenix bottling plant

The Arizona Republic, Monday, April 18, 2016
Foresight is key to water future

UANews, Wednesday, April 13, 2016
The future of water in the West explored

Mohave Daily News, Friday, April 8, 2016
Bill would change water supply rules

The Associated Press, Monday, March 28, 2016
Legislators back away from water-supply proposal

The Arizona Republic, Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Stepping up to water challenges

The Arizona Republic, Monday, Feb. 22, 2016
Years of smart water policy at risk

Arizona Daily Sun, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016
Solving the water rights issue

Arizona Capitol Times, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016
Water agency’s funding greenlighted

The Yuma Sun, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016
Kyl Center’s “Meeting Water Supply Challenges”

The Yuma Sun, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016
An agriculture tour diary

The Arizona Republic, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015
Kyl Center director is one to watch

AMWUA, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015
There’s good news in your water bill

Western Growers, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015
Water rights called into question

KJZZ, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015
Funding, strategy key to AZ water future

The Arizona Republic, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015
Experts explain water challenges at conference

The Arizona Republic, Thursday, Nov., 2015
Linking lifestyle decisions with water use

Arizona Horizon, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015
’Groundwater' film debut

The Arizona Republic, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015
How Israel stays ahead of water crises

The Arizona Republic, Oct. 7, 2015
AZ We See It: Meeting water supply challenges

The Arizona Republic, Oct. 6, 2015
AZ We See It: Meeting water supply challenges

Arizona Capitol Times, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015
Kyl Center accruing AZ water leaders

Arizona Capitol Times, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015
Our water security plan

The Arizona Republic, Monday, July 13, 2015
Chandler innovative on water conservation

KJZZ 91.5, Friday, June 12, 2015
Rethinking the values of water, Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Gov. praises decades of water management

ProPublica, Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Feds' incentives impact water supply

Arizona Capitol Times, Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Poll says AZ concerned about water

Cronkite News, Wednesday, April 22, 2015
State's water agency funds dipping

The Arizona Republic, Monday, April 20, 2015
Beyond the Mirage group focused on water

Arizona Horizon, Thursday, April 16, 2015
The Water Consciousness Challenge

The Arizona Republic, Tuesday, April 14, 2015
The uncertain future of water

Cronkite News, Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Senator supports 'continual planning'

Cronkite News, Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Potential solutions for water challenges

The Arizona Republic, Thursday, April 2, 2015
'New Arizona Prize' winner announced

NBC12 News, Thursday, April 2, 2015
Water planning continues

The Arizona Republic, Monday, March 23, 2015
In AZ, every drop of water counts

Arizona Daily Star, Monday, March 23, 2015
Continuing our water conversations

The Arizona Republic, Monday, March 2, 2015
Big prize for water awareness program

KJZZ, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015
Kyl Center Director Sarah Porter

AMWUA, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015
Words matter when it comes to water recycling

Cronkite News, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015
Reviewing water-desalination

KJZZ 91.5, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015
Kyl Center Director On Water Policy in Arizona

The Arizona Republic, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015
Now is the time to address the key water issues

The Arizona Republic, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015
Like water? Then don't leave agency in a drought

Courier, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015
2015 water issues top AZ agenda

Morrison Institute, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015
Porter named director of Kyl Center for Water Policy

Morrison Institute, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015
Ferris, Larson named senior research fellows for Kyl Center

The Arizona Republic: Monday, Nov. 17, 2014
Kyl Center seeks lasting water solutions

Morrison Institute, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014
Kyl Center for Water Policy launched