Continually using data-driven planning and decision-making to prepare increasing temperatures and population numbers.
Crafted a narrative using date to make the case for increased funding for water infrastructure improvements, getting ahead of more costly potential future water shortages down the road.
Used automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology in garbage trucks to collect detailed data tracking pickup routes and analyzed which ways to pick up trash more efficiently, while maintaining safety.
Created HeatReady, a program that identified the highest temperatures and the lowest amount of shade cover, tracked and enabled equitable distribution of investment to support vulnerable areas exposed to extreme heat.
One of Phoenix’s primary sources of water, the Colorado River, is becoming less reliable. City officials know this because they constantly forecast water availability while tracking regional demand and seasonal weather patterns, along with long-term climate change. The data doesn’t look good.
“Water is the lifeblood of any city, especially the fifth largest city in the nation located in the middle of a desert,” says Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher. “We have never taken water for granted. Continuous strategic planning throughout the decades, with data at the forefront, has allowed us to effectively manage potential supply challenges and opportunities for growth.”
With trend lines clear, city officials leveraged data to sound the alarm. Kathryn Sorensen, the Director of Phoenix Water Services, stood in front of the Phoenix City Council presenting data integrating economics, hydrology, geography and other subjects. An image of a black swan swam across the slides to underscore the possibility of a “black swan event.” Phoenix taps could run dry if the drought continued and the city remained so reliant on the Colorado River.
Elected officials never enjoy raising the costs of essential services. What Phoenix shows is that when the decision-makers have access to data that tell a clear story, hard decisions are made a little easier.
“Part of what we had to do to get the Council to fund big water infrastructure improvements was tell a story about what you’re getting, and why it’s worth it,” Zuercher says. In fact, by acting when it did, the Council avoided a more painful rate jump down the road, when water shortages might be imminent. “Because we started early enough with the 6 percent increase, we don’t have to do an 18 percent increase later,” he adds.