The $600 million expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center—managed by the city's public works department—will triple the building's size to 2 million square feet. Photo: Phoenix Convention Center
Flowing Smoothly

According to water services director Tammy Perkins, downtown revitalization also presents her department with a number of opportunities and challenges.

“One of our greatest challenges, on the capital side, has been balancing our focus on our central city infrastructure rehabilitation with development of water and wastewater infrastructure in the city's growth areas,” she says. “As our department celebrates our 100th birthday this year and infrastructure continues to age, solid asset and financial planning becomes even more important to maintain the system's reliability at a reasonable cost.”

The department has a five-year capital improvement budget of a little more than $1.4 billion. Recent projects include its sixth water treatment facility, the Lake Pleasant Water Treatment Plant, opened in early May. The plant's initial capacity is 80 mgd, but its final capacity reaches all the way to 320 mgd. Also, expansion of the 91st Street wastewater plant will use the city's Tres Rios wetlands to “polish” treated water.

“We'll get the benefit of high-quality wastewater treatment, as well as flood mitigation and habitat restoration advantages,” says Perkins.

Keeping The People Happy

With growth comes growing pains. One particular problem area: constituents who sometimes can't see much beyond torn-up asphalt and congested streets to the end result of improved roads and traffic. The city meets this problem head on, in a number of ways.

The departments communicate through the Web, newsletters, and other outreach programs to inform them of construction-created traffic snarls. Phoenicians can sign up at for Web-based updates and e-mail alerts. In addition, water services and other departments encourage frequent interaction with customers at the call center and in the field, so that citizens feel listened to and satisfied with service.

“No matter how big the city might get, public works will continue to work hard to meet the needs of our customers,” says Leonard. “This is an exciting time in Phoenix's history, and we're happy to be a part of it.”

Phoenix at a glance

Population: 1.3 million

Median age: 30.7 years

Public works budget: $642 million

  • Water Services Department: $232 million, 1417 employees
  • Street Transportation Department: $200 million, 782 employees
  • Public Works Department (includes Solid Waste, Facilities, Equipment Management, and Administration units): $210 million, 1025 employees