How the City of Phoenix is striving to become one of the most sustainable desert cities in the world
When the Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Phoenix took up his post in 2014 the target was to become the most sustainable desert city in the world. Five years later, Mark Hartman and the very innovative department heads across the City are setting their sights on a sustainability roadmap for 2050 to ensure progress for future generations in Phoenix.
“Back in 2016 when City departments adopted these goals we asked: ‘What kind of city do we want to be in 2050?’” explains Hartman. “Instead of thinking ‘How did we get here?’, we want to be able to say, ‘We planned to get to this place’ and this is what the perfect city looks like — our 2050 environmental goals aim to articulate those long term desired outcomes. Setting out the long-term environmental goals of zero carbon, zero waste, clean air, a 100-year supply of water, and parks and transit in every neighbourhood will drive us towards what we’re trying to achieve as a sustainable desert city.”
A big part of that sustainability journey is a series of major projects including the 91st Avenue wastewater biogas project (the largest facility of its kind in the US). “Our water department is capturing methane from our wastewater, putting it in a pipeline and generating revenue by selling it to the California green energy market. It’s a great example of finding a use for the methane from wastewater treatment. In addition to the biogas, we actually reuse nearly all of the wastewater. We’re ahead of the curve, which encompasses how we focus our approach in the desert.” Along with the biogas production, reclaimed water is also being diverted into irrigation for farming and agriculture and for cooling at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Meanwhile, the final by-products, the bio-solids which amount to 10% of total waste, become fertilisers for non-food crops.