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5 Ways Surprise, Arizona is a Community Leader for Sustainability

City officials are increasingly looking for ways to leverage natural resources and mitigate the effects of climate change. Desert cities face even more challenges, as they already deal with issues surrounding water conservation and warm temperatures. Already this past April, NASA reported the third hottest April on record.

At the recent 2018 State of the City, Mayor Sharon Wolcott emphasized the importance of sustainability. 

“We must be prepared to commit to build an arterial grid that serves a model of commercial and residential growth that is sustainable. We must be prepared to respond to how future residents will want to live in our community, and commit every available resource, in the most efficient manner. And we must have a vision for how to maintain viable transportation corridors that are sensitive to the natural environment around us.”

Surprise, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix that saw record heat in 2017, is one such city that has made sustainability a priority in their commitment to creating a “Green Surprise.” Surprise is doing this through a variety of efforts relating to air quality, water conservation, and energy.

Its efforts have even lead to Surprise being named a “Greening Greater Phoenix Community" by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Here are the five ways Surprise has moved to the forefront of creating a sustainable city. 

Air Quality

Courtesy of Surprise, AZ

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality describes ground-level ozone as a public health concern. Prolonged exposure to low-level ozone concentrations is just as harmful to one’s health as exposure to higher levels for shorter durations. And though Arizona has cut down on the emissions that contribute to the formation of ozone through a rigorous vehicle emission inspection program, improvements in area mass transit, increased participation in Valley Metro's Trip Reduction Program and the introduction of clean-burning gasoline during the summer months, there is still room to improve in reducing air pollution. 

The Surprise City Council has approved a PM10 (a term used to describe very fine airborne particles that have been known to cause health problems) Dust Control Ordinance. Sources of this type of pollution include off-road vehicles, driving on unpaved roads, agricultural dust, construction, vacant lands, and mining. The PM10 control measures include the goal of obtaining a five percent reduction in emissions per year until the PM-10 standard is attained. Ways to do this include prohibiting those using leaf blowers from blowing debris into public roadways, banning off-road vehicle use in high activity areas and closed property, and requiring the city to pave or stabilize public unimproved roads/alleys.

Water Conservation

Skyfrop is Smart Irrigation System / Courtesy of All Home Robotics

Surprise’s Water Conservation Program is an important part of the management of the city’s limited water resources. The program’s website lists various links related to water conservations as well as incentives for residents like the Water Rebate Program, where residents can receive a $125 rebate for installing a smart controller irrigation system. Their newest incentive called Arizona Rinse Smart Program is a new water efficiency program for the restaurant industry. The program replaces high water use, low-pressure pre-rinse spray valves, with lower water use, high pressure valves. The City of Surprise and EPCOR Water provides all registered participants with a pre-rinse nozzle with cost of installation, by a licensed contractor, for free. 

Solar Surprise

Solar home in Surprise, AZ

As part of an ongoing commitment to sustainability, the Surprise City Council has approved an ordinance that waives all permitting fees for residents and businesses that adopt solar technology. Waiving these fees reduce the overall cost of installing photovoltaic systems by $275. These types of systems include typical solar collection panels that are used to generate electricity in a home or business. 


LEED Certification

Surprise also offers a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification Fee Rebate Incentive Program. Under the guidelines of the program, if you build a home or commercial building that’s certified under the Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System, the city will refund a certain percentage of your building fees. For example, a Silver-LEED certification equals a 25 percent fee rebate; a Gold-LEED certification equals a 50 percent fee rebate; and a 75 percent rebate will go to buildings or homes that are Platinum-LEED certified. Maracay Homes was recognized as an Arizona leader in green building with communities with already in Chandler, Gilbert, and Mesa and is paving the way for other builders to incorporate green methods. 

Hybrid Vehicles for City Crew

The Public Works of Surprise, AZ are all provided hybrid cars for their work

According to Connserve Energy Future, one of the biggest advantage of a hybrid car over a gas-powered car is that it runs cleaner and has better gas mileage. Surprise Fleet Management is responsible for maintaining the city's Public Works fleet of more than 200 vehicles. They are also phasing in alternative fuel vehicles to reduce emissions, and they’ve incorporated several dual-switch vehicles that can run on cleaner-burning alternative fuels, when such options become more readily available.

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