Water features include a variety of man-made water-using structures such as fountains, ponds, lakes, waterfalls, artificial streams, spas, and swimming pools that serve a recreational or aesthetic function. In order to conserve water, many communities in Arizona and the Southwest have enacted ordinances that apply to the size, operation, and source of water for water features and that may ban some types completely.

In areas where residents are aware of limited water supplies and the need to conserve water, some types of water features may represent an unnecessary and wasteful use of water.

Water feature regulations are generally included in water conservation codes, and also appear as a source of water waste in water waste ordinances. Common requirements for water features include recirculation for fountains and use of non-potable water for lakes and ponds. The size of swimming pools may be limited, and pool covers may be required to reduce water lost to evaporation. Regulations may also limit the amount of spray from a fountain and the hours of operation in a commercial setting.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources lists the following provisions that may be included in ordinances for new ornamental water features, which it defines as fountains or ponds:

  • Use re-circulating pump technology to recycle water
  • Design feature to prevent water seepage or leaking
  • Use rainwater as the exclusive water source
  • Do not exceed a maximum area, e.g., 1 percent of the net site area of the development
  • Locate feature in an interior oasis area, e.g., within a building or courtyard

When Scottsdale amended its Water Conservation Code in May, 2016, it modified the water feature requirements for commercial new industrial users, and common areas of residential developments. Although Scottsdale does not limit the size or specify the source of water for water features, the code does require a number of water conservation features.

The provisions include the following:

  • Non-residential water features are restricted to operating only during normal business hours.
  • Siting must be in areas of “significant environmental enhancement to on-site users” such as courtyards and near restaurant seating and water features may not be visible from the street.
  • Features must be designed to use equipment and materials that minimize leakage.
  • Features must be equipped with a recirculating pump and designed with catch basins to maximize the amount of water recycled.
  • Features must be equipped with a wind shut-off valve to reduce overspray.
  • Features must be separately metered if it uses more than 1,000 gallons of water per day.
  • Use of non-potable water must be approved by the Water Conservation Office.
  • A permit must be obtained prior to construction.
  • Scottsdale also offers a modest rebate for removal of pools and spas at the rate of $.50/square foot of surface area, not to exceed $1,500.

Other communities in Arizona have size limitations on water features. The Town of Payson limits the size of water features to 500 gallons if they use potable water. The City of Sierra Vista restricts the size of ponds and fountains to 500 square feet of surface area. Both communities also require water to be recirculated.

Model Code
City of Scottsdale Code Sec. 49-242, which includes a limitation on water features for commercial users, new industrial users and common areas of residential developments. The City of Scottsdale Code can be found here.

City of Scottsdale Water Department
Email: Question@ScottsdaleAZ.gov
Phone: 602-908-9175

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