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Leading the Way to a Sustainable Water Future for Arizona

October 24, 2023

Leveraging Innovation to Target a 35% Reduction in Water Consumption

In the century since achieving statehood in 1912, Arizona has enjoyed extraordinary growth from every relevant metric. In population alone in those 111 years, the state has grown from 217,000 people to nearly 7,500,000. Yet, if that growth seems unfathomable, Buckeye, Arizona—home of our new Howard Hughes community of Teravalis that is underway in the Phoenix West Valley—has experienced a yet more explosive population boom, growing more than a hundred-fold from fewer than 700 people on the day Arizona joined the United States to more than 115,000 people today.

Since 1950, Arizona has had a seven-fold increase in population and a 15-fold growth in the state’s economy—yet the state uses the same amount of water today as it did over 60 years ago.

There’s a myth with potentially far-reaching ramifications taking hold in Arizona—that the state will soon run out of water. This misconception persists, even though numerous water experts have noted that there’s no evidence to support it. We aren’t running out of water—but we do need to pursue and adapt more innovative ways of conserving it. Arizonans—even with one of the fastest growing populations in the country—can, in fact, expect to have all the water that is needed for generations to come.

Thanks to innovative technology—and a commitment to accelerate the adoption of smart water practices—the amount of water used on a per capita basis today will continue to fall for the coming decades. A secure water future for the millions of people who continue to decide to make their lives in Arizona can be safely predicted. That is exactly what we are pursuing for our planned community of Teravalis in the Phoenix West Valley, where our strategies in the new community of Teravalis target a 35% reduction in water consumption.

Covering 37,000 acres including thousands of acres of public open spaces, hike and bike trails seamlessly integrated into what is in essence a new city offering all the comforts of modern life, Teravalis will support up to 100,000 homes and approximately 300,000 people by the time development is completed over the next several decades. Howard Hughes is a vertically integrated real estate developer, and we are planning today for our community’s water usage long into the future.

Teravalis has ambitious but achievable goals. The US national average water usage is 164 gallons per person per day (gppd). The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) proposes new construction should target its current baseline of 146 gppd. Teravalis has developed detailed plans to allow its community to thrive on a targeted 95 gppd—and that is BEFORE the implementation of other water-saving initiatives. By rethinking how water is used in and around the homes, commercial, and mixed-use spaces, Teravalis will offer a lifestyle that is comfortable and sustainable, designed to become a model for responsible development throughout the Southwest and beyond, including pursuing LEED certification for commercial buildings throughout the community.

Targeting to our goal of a 35% reduction in per capita water use is easier than conventional wisdom has us believe. By partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)WaterSense program and with important input from the U.S. Green Building Council, as well as a team of water-focused architects and urban planners, we can achieve significant savings in water use.

Every Teravalis home will be required to meet the EPA’s mandatory requirements for WaterSense labeled homes, which must be at least 30 percent more water-efficient than typical new home construction, including toilets, showers heads, faucets, dishwashers, and washing machines.

Equally important is our focus on water-use reductions outside of the home, where Americans on average use more water. Residential landscaping will embrace Arizona’s natural desert landscape with drought-tolerant plants and succulent gardens that align with ADWR’s approved list of vegetation and will replace natural grass turf. Irrigation from the water captured by the community’s highly treated wastewater will be utilized to offer natural grass on open playfields and community areas conveniently located within close proximity to people’s homes. All these landscape areas will use drip irrigation (excluding functional turf areas) and weather-based irrigation controllers to ensure that no watering of plants occurs when rain is or has been present.

Other features of life in Teravalis will include swimming pools limited to 600 square feet with a maximum depth of five feet, and with permits required for covers to prevent evaporation. Car washing restrictions will be the norm. For both indoor and outdoor use, smart meters will ensure that if leaks occur, they can be detected and repaired quickly to minimize loss.

Teravalis will construct water reclamation facilities to capture, treat and reuse 100% of the wastewater produced within the community. This reclaimed water will be used to irrigate landscaping in community green spaces in order to reduce or eliminate the demand of potable water needed throughout Teravalis. In addition, the reclaimed water will be utilized to recharge the Hassayampa Basin, the aquifer directly beneath Teravalis. Functionally, this will drive down community-wide water usage even further.

3 tables showing the water usage for household purposes, from 1999, 2016 and Teravalis’ improved estimate. 3 tables showing the water usage for household purposes, from 1999, 2016 and Teravalis’ improved estimate. 3 tables showing the water usage for household purposes, from 1999, 2016 and Teravalis’ improved estimate.

Overall Residential Water Savings at Teravalis

National Average of 164 GPPD : 55K Acre Feet*

ADWR of 146 GPPD : 49K Acre Feet*

HHH Plan of 95 GPPD : 32K Acre Feet*

35% Savings

from ADWR

HERS H2O Calculator of 73.1 GPPD : 25K Acre Feet*

  • 23% Savings

  • 50% Savings

  • 55% Savings

A graph showing the overall residential water savings at Teravalis compared to the National and Arizona averages with some key data points extracted.

Achieving a 35% reduction, or 95 gppd, is a goal, but it is certainly not an endpoint. As innovation in water continues to advance—both in terms of water savings and the still-developing world of water creation—Teravalis will be an advocate and early adopter of developing technologies.

While innovation brings tremendous benefits, we know that the implementation of advanced technologies can often result in higher development costs. Howard Hughes is committed to setting a new standard for responsible development—to meeting the housing demands of those who want to live in the Phoenix West Valley, while at the same time ensuring a sustainable water future for all who want to live in Teravalis or elsewhere in Arizona.

Going beyond mere compliance to local, state and federal laws, rules and guidelines, Howard Hughes will continue working with the City of Buckeye, Arizona Governor Hobbs and the state legislature, and the ADWR to develop and drive new approaches to conservation.

The growth and long-term success of Arizona and the region depends on thoughtful, evidenced-based water conservation planning. Now is the time to move past public misconceptions about the state’s water supply and tackle the challenge head-on, reconfirming Arizona’s leadership in water management and ensuring that generations have the water they need to enjoy the quality of life that is attracting so many new residents and businesses to the Phoenix West Valley, with Teravalis leading the way.