News Feature | January 5, 2018

Conservation At U.S. Water Utilities On The Rise

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

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On average, water use by U.S. ratepayers appears to be dropping. Americans used 6 fewer gallons of water on a daily basis in 2015 compared to 2010.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) has estimated the nation’s water use every five years since 1950, according to the federal agency. “In its most recent estimate published this fall, the USGS found that American daily water use per capita went from 88 gallons in 2010 to 82 gallons per capita in 2015,” The Christian Science Monitor reported.

“The US population grew by 4 percent between 2010 and 2015, or 12 million people, but total withdrawals for public supply – water that comes out of kitchen faucets and lawn sprinklers – decreased by 7 percent. According to the USGS, total public-supply withdrawals were at their lowest levels since 1995,” the report said.

Cheryl Dieter, a hydrologist with the USGS and coauthor of the report, said drought played a major role in the declining usage numbers, according to The Christian Science Monitor. Taken together, California and Texas accounted for 78 percent of the national drop in water use. Each state underwent drought and water restrictions during the period under review.

“A lot of the states had a lot of small decreases,” Dieter said, per The Christian Science Monitor. “But when things happen in those big states, they affect the overall national trends.”

Water utilities say customers sometimes question why their bills are not going down even though water conservation is going up, according to a report on the state of the water industry issued by Black & Veatch.

“More engaged customers, who may be actively working to reduce consumption in their own household and see others doing the same, are asking why conservation efforts aren’t leading to more rate stability, or even decreases,” according to Black & Veatch.

The Christian Science Monitor reported the same phenomenon. “While the country is using less water, many Americans are still receiving expensive water bills,” the report said.

The Black & Veatch report framed the issue as a communications challenge for water utilities and offered suggestions on how to confront it.

“The industry needs to shift this thinking — to flip the script — and communicate the larger story to its stakeholders and customers,” the report said, describing infrastructure repair as a big part of that story.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Faucet Drip 1," Eric Norris © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/