Since 1988, the City of Flagstaff’s water conservation program has helped customers reduce their water use by 50%. Then, water usage in the City of Flagstaff, AZ hit a high of 186 gallons per capita per day (GPCD). The increase in water usage, decline in water resources, and rising pumping costs motivated Flagstaff to implement a strict ordinance supporting their water conservation goals.

 Flagstaff’s water conservation program, active since 2003, includes water reuse rebates for xeriscape conversions and other low water use products as well as an inverted rate structure. The Water Conservation ordinance (section 7-03-001-0014) is a proactive and successful approach to water conservation. Since the passage of the ordinance, Flagstaff has experienced a decline in per capita usage of 39%, hitting a low of 114 GPCD in 2009. In 2017, the city’s website states, 

“Flagstaff citizens use about 101 gallons of water per person per day* ….”

The ordinance connects the status of water resources with a corresponding strategy aimed at protecting potable and reclaimed water supplies. Resource Status I indicates that the water demand is equal to or less than safe production capability; Resource Status II indicates that water demand exceeds safe production capability for five consecutive days; and Resource Status III is when water demand exceeds total production capability and the amount of water in storage may impair fire protection for the city. For each Resource Status qualifier there is a conjunctive strategy aligned with it that initiates water schedule restrictions:

  • Establish permitted irrigation days;
  • Regulate vehicle washing;
  • Increase water rates over 6,401 gallons; and
  • Set fees associated with non-compliance violations.

There is a commercial provision for businesses that require daily water use for day-to-day business operations, excluding aesthetic landscaping purposes. The Resource Status is set by the City Manager upon recommendation from the Utility Director and upon the approval of the City Council.

In 2005, Flagstaff was presented with the 2005 Lower Colorado Region Water Conservation Field Services Program Award from the Bureau of Reclamation. The Water Conservation Field Services Program Award recognizes federal water users and partners for their innovative and effective water conservation programs.

To further promote lasting water conservation measures, Flagstaff implemented a rebate program for High-Efficiency Toilets and turf reduction projects. Beginning in July of 2011, residents may apply for a $100 rebate for installation of low flow toilets and a $500 rebate for xeriscape landscape design. These types of rebate programs give positive reinforcement to residents working to reduce their water consumption and complement the goals of the Water Conservation Ordinance.

Flagstaff also promotes water conservation on its website, offering the following list with links to information and resources:

1.     Repair your leaking toilet!
2.     Replace your old toilets.
3.     Abide by the City’s current watering rules
4.     Track your water use!
5.     Replace your lawn with low-water-use plants.
6.     Harvest rainwater and grey water for your landscaping needs.
7.     Repair household leaks.
8.     If possible, use reclaimed water for landscape irrigation.
9.     Upgrade your washing machine.
10.   Water wisely outdoors.
11.   Protect your pipes from freezing.


Case Study Resources

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Resilient Communities and Watersheds


  • Challenges:
  • waterconservation
  • State:
  • arizona
  • Scale:
  • community