When in Doubt, Plan for the Next Drought

Jeremy Rice

On the heels of one of the worst droughts the southwest has experienced in decades, recent record setting rains have led many municipalities to answer, yes, we now have sufficient supplies to meet customer demands during the summer. Although the short-term water supply outlook is positive, many municipalities recognize the need for a new standard for water efficiency, which takes long-term population growth, increased climate variability and increasing future supply costs into account. As entities begin to implement their day-to-day water conservation plans, here are some water efficiency measures to consider:

Year-round outdoor watering limits
Many cities have implemented limits on the number of days and time of day customers can water their landscapes. The limits should be climate-specific, according to the region’s amount of natural precipitation and rate of evapotranspiration, or water lost through evaporation or plant absorption.

Landscape ordinances
This includes the adoption of ordinances requiring new development to install climate-appropriate landscape material, which can be adequately watered within the outdoor watering limits.

Leak Detection and Water Loss Control Programs
This includes a better understanding of water losses, where losses may be occurring, and measures to reduce losses within an entity’s system.

These long-term water efficiency measures can delay the implementation of drought measures in the future, delay the need for future costly water supplies, and provide some protection against climate variability. All of these water efficiency measures should be designed specifically to account for each entity’s water use patterns and customer base. Please contact Jeremy Rice with questions regarding these measures or updating water conservation or drought contingency plans.