Dealing with Drought part 2 of 5: What’s the best way to conserve water?


About this series

This is Reno sat down with Kim Mazeres, Truckee Meadows Water Authority’s director of customer relations, to explore the complex topic of how a water purveyor deals with the tough realities of drought. We sought to find out more about our area’s water use in key areas:

  1. How well prepared our region is to deal with drought.
  2. Why TMWA schedules water conservation for specific times rather than year-round.
  3. Why TMWA is tapping its reserves for the first time in 20 years.
  4. Which water users are most targeted for conservation, and why.
  5. What rules and regulations require TMWA to act and when.
  6. What key agreement, now in court, will greatly improve our region’s ability to respond to drought.

Video interviews accompany each post in this series, exploring these topics in more detail.


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Dealing with Drought part 2 of 5

By Bob Conrad, video interview by Bob Conrad and Chris Vega

THIS IS RENO: What is TMWA’s water usage and conservation potential by customer class?

Kim MazeresKim Mazeres, Truckee Meadows Water Authority: First up, let’s discuss commercial customers. Keep in mind that commercial customers pay for their water twice—from TMWA for delivery, and for sewer as they are billed by volume of water used—often times significantly more than their water bill.

Irrigation customers pay the highest rate per 1,000 gallons. These customer groups are very motivated to be as water efficient as possible, and they find every possible way to save water.

That leaves the residential customers. Indoor usage has become dramatically more efficient with modern, low-flow fixtures and appliances. The average usage for a family of four in the winter, which is all indoor use, is 6,000 gallons per month. That leaves outdoor usage. The average metered-residential customer uses 21,000 gallons a month in the summer, or 15,000 gallons a month outdoors on landscaping.

That being said, residential metered customers are paying for the water they use and have a reminder and trigger every month when they pay their bill. Anything that is not normal is usually noticed.  For flat-rate customers, that might not be the case, unless they constantly review the monthly water usage which is on their bills.

As you can see by the graphs supplied (at right). The biggest portion of our water use, over 61 percent, is by residential customers. It makes sense to concentrate our efforts there.

Is it safe to say that targeting cumulative water usage for conservation during specific times (i.e., summer, outdoor irrigation by residential customers) is one of the best ways to get results from conservation when TMWA has to use its reserves? Why is this so?

Yes. First of all, we have planned well in advance and our drought reservoirs are full, so we have no place to save any water the community conserves at present. (We will create room when we start using these reserves.) Secondly: customers are very efficient indoors. Total production for a typical winter day is 30 million gallons. Right now, in the hottest part of summer, we are producing about 120 million gallons a day. We know that the difference is related to outdoor watering. Therefore, TMWA has asked customers to concentrate on efficient outdoor water use.

That is also why during this drought and while we are using our drought reserves, we are asking for 10-percent reduction in outdoor water use, as we believe it is our biggest bang for the buck and where the community should be focusing their efforts. And, 10 percent is very achievable – TMWA customers have responded positively in the past, and I know they will again.

This is where our customers can really help us – by all 94,000 of them reducing their outdoor water use just a small amount. With this help, we are projecting that all of the water in Independence Lake will be held over in case we need it next year. That is good insurance to have. (A 10-percent reduction will save 2,000 acre feet of water, or over 650 million gallons. We anticipate our customers will use 4,700 acre feet of drought reserves this summer, leaving us with 25,000 acre feet in reserve.)

When it comes to conservation, where does TMWA get greater results in terms of achieving reduced water use? Previous news suggests that targeting homeowners for better irrigation practices has been successful, but what other strategies are involved?

Our primary emphasis is always going to be where waste most frequently occurs. The big one is irrigation, i.e., sprinkler systems. Leaks, overly long watering cycles and broken or poorly set sprinkler heads always need to be addressed. Beyond that, adjusting float valves in water features or evaporative coolers, and fixing leaky toilets really can produce a lot of savings. For example, we have found tens of thousands of gallons being wasted a month by an improperly set irrigation timer, a broken irrigation or drip line or a running toilet.

We always offer help to our customers who may not know what to do when they receive a high bill. If the bill is unusually high for the property, we proactively contact the customer and advise of the high usage. If requested, we will come out to a customer’s property and perform a water-usage review. We may find a leak, and we always offer advice on reducing use.

Usage reviews are free of charge. Simply contact us at 775-834-8080, option #2, and our representative will schedule one for your property. For the do-it-yourselfer, we have help in many forms: brochures, workshops, information on our website, how-to videos, etc.

Read the complete serieshttp://conradcomm.wpengine.com/dealing-drought/

FIND OUT MORE

Here’s more information on TMWA’s water resources: www.tmwa.com/water_system/resources/2030wrp.   For a deeper look at TMWA’s resource planning, the “2010-2030 Water Resource Plan” can be downloaded here: www.tmwa.com/water_system/resources/2030wrp. Portions of the plan, which was adopted by the TMWA Board of Directors in 2009, are incorporated into the Regional Water Management Plan, which is maintained by the Western Regional Water Commission.

Bob Conrad
About Bob Conrad 1059 Articles
Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.