Water Conservation an untapped resource

Following is my recent letter to the Indianapolis Business Journal regarding water conservation.  This is the original letter– several portions were cut by the IBJ editor from the version which was published.


“IBJ’s 11-2-13 editorial (Study water needs while there’s time) should have noted the value of conservation in meeting future area needs. Available supply should be carefully stewarded and not “promiscuously pumped”, as one water expert recently put it.

From attending many of the recent meetings of the Citizens Water board and its technical advisory group, it’s clear that supply during droughts is indeed strained. This is exacerbated when some residential customers (e.g. one in Carmel on the Citizens system) draw at the rate of more than a million gallons per day even during last year’s drought.

Yet a recent consultant report on water supply for Boone County didn’t even mention water conservation– it only considered finding and financing new supply as the only solution for meeting future demand. As a result, that’s what the area’s public officials will focus upon– to the exclusion of other viable, less expensive solutions. Many cities have significantly reduced their consumption without pain. San Antonio reduced its per capita daily use from 225 gallons to 115 gallons within 25 years by instilling and implementing a water conservation ethic. The water utility there pumps less from the local river than it did in the early 1980s—with 67 percent more customers.

Interestingly, Citizens Water’s baseline pumpage has been declining slightly but steadily over the past several years, much to the chagrin of its financial managers who lament the revenue decreases. This indicates that customers across the board are conserving more. Water has become increasingly expensive. But conservation is vastly cheaper than financing new supply sources.

However, if the principal public goal continues to be the unlimited growth of the urbanized area in central Indiana — along with the perpetuation of our highly wasteful lawn irrigation practices — we will inevitably be forced to continually search for new, increasingly expensive supply sources. Do Citizens Water ratepayers really want to continue to finance unlimited suburban sprawl in addition to maintaining an aging and increasingly maintenance-intensive Indianapolis water infrastructure?”

Clarke Kahlo

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