A ROUTINE ASSESSMENT OF PHOENIX'S sewer system last year revealed several lines within the city's system running at or above 80 percent capacity, the design limit. It will take $60 million over three years to fix the problem lines, says Ray Quay, Phoenix's assistant director of water services.

The problem areas are scattered throughout the city. Increased density has contributed to the lines' deterioration, Quay says. Where decades ago just one house may have been situated on several acres, multiple homes are being built per acre today. (For more on Phoenix's growth, see “Outer Limits,” page 126.) But, Quay adds, changes in household sizes, environmental shifts, and the age of the sewer lines have also led to the current problem.

The city's three-year plan will be announced June 30, with the neediest projects first on the list. “We want to get to the worst sewers and the areas where the most development is happening quicker,” Quay says.

While there has been no discussion of freezing building in the city during the repairs, the sewer problems have affected area builders. Certificates of occupancy in one development in north Phoenix were delayed until a temporary diversion in the sewer line could be built. For builders just starting new developments, the complications may be longer lasting. Those with plans for areas affected by the problem lines must construct a temporary alternative, such as a septic system, build a sewer that permanently relieves the line, or wait for the city to complete its own project.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Phoenix, AZ.