Environmental stewardship can be defined in many ways but the basic principles are constant: balancing a strong local economy while protecting and preserving the environment with decisions that improve the quality of life for future generations.
The City of Sierra Vista is committed to practices that ensure a constant water supply, reducing waste and recovering recyclable materials, and optimizing its use of natural resources. In fact, the City has taken many steps toward energy efficiency, recycling, water conservation.
All about Water
Like the rest of Arizona and many areas across our nation, sound water use practices are a top priority. The City knows that a healthy, flowing San Pedro River and the aquifer below it are vital to a healthy, growing community. That’s why the City has made decisive conservation choices since 1985, earning national accolades and leading Arizona with smart water use programs, starting with earning the nation’s first EPA WaterSense Community designation.
Moreover, this long-time commitment to environmental leadership has been a recurring theme in the Sierra Vista City Council biannual Strategic Plan since 2007. The City also led the nation in adopting development codes to help new construction projects make more efficient use of water resources.
At City facilities, thirsty landscaping has been replaced with drought-friendly choices, and green infrastructure has been installed to redirect runoff to detention basins, which encourage percolation and aquifer recharge. Capturing rainwater at several City facilities also provides water for irrigation while slowing runoff.
To mitigate the community’s impact on water use, the City dedicated 640 acres to a water treatment and aquifer recharge facility. The Environmental Operations Park also sets aside 50 acres of constructed wetlands that provide bird and wildlife habitat. A 1,800-square-foot viewing platform is located at the site and is open to the public. At the heart of the EOP is a wastewater reclamation facility capable that cleans and recharges nearly 7 million gallons of water a year.
But the City knows it can’t achieve water conservation goals alone. That’s why Sierra Vista is a founding member of the Water Wise program and the Upper San Pedro Partnership, focusing on meeting long-term water needs through preservation, conservation, and education. The City also partners with the Cochise Water Project to offer low-water replacement toilets, and has installed automatic, low-flush toilets and faucets in all of its facilities.
And efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Here are just a few awards the City has earned:
- WaterSense Community (2013)
- Association of Defense Communities Leadership Award, Mayor Tom Hessler. Water Management Initiatives (2006)
- S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Partner for the 21st Century. Environmental Operations Park (2003)
- Governor’s Pride Award. Water Conservation, Environmental Operations Park (2002)
- Governor’s Pride Award. Water Conservation (2001)
Learn more about Sierra Vista’s focus on water conservation:
- The City’s Water Leadership Team (Mission and Current Activities)
- ADWR Groundwater Report
Recycling & Composting
Although placing recyclables in your blue bin is a big part of recycling, the City has an extensive and proactive history in recycling and reuse programs, including its award winning compost program; Christmas tree recycling; fat, oil, and grease recycling; as well as household hazardous waste disposal events.
These efforts help move the community closer to reducing the amount of trash going into the landfill, reducing both short- and long-term costs, and providing resources for remanufacture.
The City realizes that energy conservation can make a significant, positive impact on our environment, not to mention saving tax payer dollars. To that end, the City has been replacing outdated, energy-draining appliances and infrastructure with high-efficiency ones. Each time a worn appliance needs replacing, large or small, the City seeks out those with Energy Star compliance.
Swapping out thermostats for an automated, centralized system in 1999, along with ultraviolet-limiting screening, ensured a consistently comfortable temperature throughout all buildings and resulted in significant savings. Other easy-to-do energy saving systems include the use of motion sensor light switches in hallways and other spaces, while southern Arizona’s ample sunlight is pulled into buildings through light tubes, skylights, and windows where possible, reducing the need for electric lighting. Other solar projects have included solar water heaters at fire stations and the animal shelter, plus the installation of solar street lights.
And when The Cove, the Sierra Vista Public Library, and the Transit Center were built, the City set a local standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings that are LEED certified. The LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a voluntary green building standard based on scientific research that utilizes state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.
Now and in the Future
Environmental stewardship is an ongoing goal. For decades, the City of Sierra Vista has not only demonstrated commitment to conservation and sustainability, it has led the state and nation. Now and far into the future, Sierra Visa will take a leadership role in environmental stewardship through the wise use of natural resources, application of green technology, and development of strong partnerships.