Recharge Up, Water Usage Down

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The numbers are in, and for the first time in several years the news, if not good, is not all that bad.

The town of Payson Water Department delivered its comprehensive Water Resources Management 2005 Status Report to the town council last night. In a drought-stricken community entirely dependent on groundwater for its very survival, the report is probably the most important document generated by town hall each year.

Because "precipitation has been dominantly below normal the past 20 years," the water status report has been mostly bad news of late -- little precipitation, creeping consumption, and tougher restrictions.

That all changed last night thanks to a winter recharge season from November 2004 to March 2005 that was one of the "wettest on record."

Combined with the water coming from Blue Ridge Reservoir in a decade or so, the supply side of the supply-demand equation looks better than it has in years. But by now everybody knows Blue Ridge water is on its way, and unless you've literally been living in a cave you experienced the rains of the past year firsthand.

The real surprise revealed in the water status report was on the demand side -- a drop in per capita per day water consumption from 90 gallons in 2003 to 86 gallons in 2004. That may not seem like much, but do the math and it adds up to a savings of about 20 million gallons of water a year.

And when you compare 86 gallons per person per day to 187 -- the minimum per person per day consumption in the Valley -- it becomes even more impressive. Public Works Director Buzz Walker would have shed a tear expressing his gratitude if to do so wouldn't have been a waste of water.

"We're just tickled to death that the customers are pitching in and helping us get through this," Walker said. "It's almost unbelievable."

Hydrologist Mike Ploughe and Water Resource Specialist Jeff Durbin suggested that a couple of important factors aided and abetted the people of Payson in reducing consumption.

  • When you're at stage 3 water conservation restrictions for a year, consumption should go down.
  • When you get as much rain as we did, you don't need to water as much.

It's also important to note that the 86 gallons per person per day applies only within the town limits. If you live in one of the outlying communities, check your water bill to see how your consumption compares.

Nevertheless, the good citizens of Payson are to be congratulated. At a time when conspicuous consumption seems to be rampant in the United States, our little town is setting an example and sending a message -- that you can enjoy a high quality of life without wasting one of our most valuable natural resources.

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