The municipal water conservation story

Municipal water demand in the West, according to Gary Woodard of Montgomery and Associates in Tucson, has become decoupled from population growth. Here’s a teaser from a talk he’s giving next month in Tucson:

The talk, entitled “The surprising slide in domestic demand: Be careful what you wish for,” focuses on the declines in municipal water demand in the Southwest, which have occurred over the past 30 years for both indoor and outdoor uses. Because this declining trend has often exceeded population growth, utilities are now delivering less water to more people. Woodard will discuss the factors that have profoundly affected demand — higher efficiency standards for appliances and fixtures, the declining appeal of turf and pools, the growing interest in sustainability, and shifting household demographics. He will also discuss the consequences of this trend and their implications for those who were planning for growing — not declining — demands.

Bruce Finley reported in the Denver Post yesterday on that Colorado front range city’s experience with the phenomenon:

Whatever the reasons, water use in metro Denver has dipped to 40-year lows.

The total amount residents used in December decreased to 3.19 billion gallons, and in January to 3.36 billion gallons — down from previous winter highs topping 4 billion gallons, utility officials said.

The last time December use dropped this low was in 1973 when Denver had 350,000 fewer people.



  1. As a recent transplant to Denver from Minneapolis, I expected to see more stringent water conservation measures here. Yeah, not so much: Every time below-freezing overnight temps are expected, the apartment complex I live in posts signs near all the exits: “FREEZE WARNING! Let faucets drip!” My son lives in Colorado Springs and sees the same warnings. I thought, “Heck no!” and refused to do it — and the bathtub drain froze solid. So now, like other apartment dwellers, I’m using water as antifreeze. This would never fly in water-blessed, and much colder, Minneapolis. Never.

    While it’s great that Denver’s per capita water use has declined, it seems like there are still plenty of conservation opportunities — including residents’ love of turf lawns.

  2. This is the conundrum with electricity conservation and water conservation. When your investments are made with a presumption of constant demand and income from that demand, things can go awry. Thus the problem with electricity monopolies and rooftop solar power.



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