News Column

City plan focuses on water conservation

June 20, 2014

By Lindsey Erdody, Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.



June 20--The city now has its first water conservation plan.

The comprehensive report outlines goals for the city of Bloomington Utilities Department and specifies measures to implement throughout the next decade. It expands upon a water conservation plan that Wittman Hydro Planning Associates prepared for the city in 2009 and includes benchmarks on the supply and demand sides of the operation.

"This is our first go at it," Conservation and Energy Resource Manager Nolan Hendon said. "This is really the beginning of this."

Hendon said staff has been working on the plan since the beginning of the year. It was a requirement from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission after city utilities increased rates to finance the recently completed a $42 million expansion project.

The project increased the city's water pumping capacity from 24 million gallons per day to 30 million. The city receives its water from Lake Monroe, which has been the only water source since the Griffy Lake Water Treatment Plant closed in 1996.

According to calculations in the report compiled by Wittman Hydro Planning Associates, conservation efforts are predicted to reduce usage by 2 percent -- which is more than 100 million gallons -- by 2030. By 2015, there could be a reduction of about 31 million gallons per year.

Without conservation measures in place, it's predicted that usage would come close to or exceed the 30 million gallons per day capacity by 2030, meaning the city would need to expand operations further. Part of the last expansion included infrastructure for additional future pipes, and it's estimated it would cost $7.5 million to increase capacity another 6 million gallons per day.

There are six goals outlined in the plan that the Utilities Service Board approved this week: reduce per capita and city water use, reduce real and apparent water loss, postpone the need for future expansion projects, increase water conservation literacy, improve drought preparedness and protect environmental resources.

In order to achieve those goals, there are 19 measures described, including a water audit, leak detection and repair program, public outreach and education campaign, an improved drought contingency plan, research into alternative pricing methods and possible rebates for customers.

The measures have been split into three implementation phases. The first phase, which will occur throughout the rest of the year and into 2015, includes most of the outreach programs and an analysis of supply-side operations to get started drafting a water loss control plan. For example, customers might have noticed an insert that was mailed along with April's bill. Other public campaigns will include teaching residents the benefits of water conservation and actions they can take to reduce water waste. Utilities will also take advantage of its website and social media to inform customers.

Phase two is scheduled to happen from 2016-2020, and focuses on measures that take more time to carry out. This would include testing meters, starting a leak detection and repair program and sending peak notifications to all users.

The last phase is slated for 2021-2024 and involves plans that would be expensive or require a significant amount of time and collaboration. For example, the conservation plan mentions the possibility of introducing city legislation to influence water conservation and exploring other pricing methods.

"It's hard to just say one specific part of it is important," Hendon said. "I think it's just important for utilities to focus on the big picture."

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(c)2014 the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.)

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Source: Herald-Times (Bloomington, IN)


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