Despite Conservation Efforts, Water Use Continues To Rise

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With Payson residents using more and more water despite Stage 2 conservation measures in effect for most of the summer, the town is looking for new ways to reduce consumption.

Water usage has increased every month this year. In July, for example, a total of 69 million gallons was used a 16-percent increase over the previous July.

Public Works Director Buzz Walker says it's a trend that cannot be ignored.

As a result, the town is looking at supply-based mandatory restrictions, new conservation measures and rate increases for all classes of users. A new study backs the town's strategy.

According to the North Central Arizona Groundwater Report, commissioned by the Grand Canyon Trust, the best way to address northern Arizona's growing demand for water is not through discovering and developing new sources but to use proven water efficiency and conservation programs to stretch existing supplies.

The study concludes that 30 percent or more of existing water supplies can be saved by using better technology. The report examines northern Arizona water use, water conservation, and alternative supplies, including wastewater reclamation, graywater reuse, and rainwater harvesting.

"In the midst of a multi-year drought and a growing population in northern Arizona and Flagstaff, it's a big issue about how we are going to continue to supply water," Nikolai Ramsey, Grand Canyon Trust program officer, said.

The study concludes that proven water efficiency and conservation programs constitute a first source of water supply and therefore might help avoid costly new water supply projects. The study states that water conservation and conventional and alternative supplies must all be considered, "if a community or region is to develop the most cost-effective approach to meeting human and environmental water needs."

The study details 23 specific efficiency and conservation measures that can help reduce water demand in the area. They include:

Distribution system leak detection and repair

"Ten percent 'unaccounted for' water (the difference between water produced and water sold) is a common 'guideline' in the industry," the study reports. "In a water-short region, a rate of 5 percent or less should be sought."

Distribution system pressure reductions

"Too high water pressure results in wastefully high flow rates at faucets, showerheads and some other water fixtures," according to the study. An alternative approach is to require pressure-reducing valves in new buildings.

Common end-use measures

Most common conservation measures must be implemented by the end-user, the study says. They include low-flush toilets, efficient showerheads and faucets, high-efficiency clothes washers and dishwashers, low-water plants and xeriscape. For commercial users, they include many of the above plus waterless urinals and more efficient use of food service, dishwashing and other equipment that use water.

Implementation programs

Among "a host of ways to encourage or require end-users to implement water efficiency and conservation measures" are conservation rate structures, summer surcharges, large-user and large-landscape audits.

For more information or to see the complete study, go to www.grandcanyontrust.org.

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