There are other external factors that require a team approach, such as the PFAs (polyfluruoralkyl substances) often found in things like firefighting foams, stain guards and even Teflon pans. Calkins calls them the “forever chemicals" because they don't break down readily and can leach into aquifers. EPCOR is responding to public concern by proactively sampling its water sources to ensure that PFAs levels are well below the EPA guidance. This is just one area of public education in which EPCOR is at the forefront.
Rick Obenshain worked with Arizona's Department of Water Resources before transitioning to EPCOR as Water Resource Analyst and managing EPCOR's conservation programs. These programs include the H2O Magic program for children, a groundwater education program and courses he runs or teaches on desert adaptive plants, water regulation, drought contingency, and a program called Hydrate, on how to use rainfall and runoff. Last but hardly least, he oversees the gorgeous xeriscape gardens at the EPCOR offices. His work is about teaching the public how water works and how they can use it, reuse it and not lose it.
All of which are essential to the Southwest's water supply. EPCOR reuses close to 93% of treated wastewater or effluent, and its wastewater is treated to A+ effluent standards, which is significant because in 2020 EPCOR recharged 2.3 million gallons a day (MGD) into aquifers. That number is expected to reach 8 MGD in the years to come. Having such high effluent standards helps takes the pressure off the earth in returning water to a potable state.
If we're smart about it, there is enough water to supply the Southwest, which means we shouldn't have to go around holding our water bottle upside down over a dry tongue. “There is a lot of water here," says Calkins. “But it needs to be used wisely. Because it doesn't matter where you are, everything is interconnected."