— ConservationColorado (@ConservationCO) March 20, 2015
1 TRILLION gals of H2O wasted per yr from household leaks is = to the annual H2O used by 11 MILLION homesMarch 18, 2015
From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):
Drought across the West and Midwest is driving renewed concerns over water scarcity and the availability to meet demand in the future. But some groups say finding the right price point for water customers will be the key to quenching the thirst for water.
A conference exploring ways for water utility finance mangers to maintain a healthy bottom line — even as water use declines and system repairs loom — was held in Park City Friday, drawing officials from Utah, Colorado and elsewhere in the West.
Called “CFO Connect,” the session was organized by Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy group, and Park City.
“More and more, areas in the West are looking at replacing the storage that had been provided by snowpack. And those are expensive projects,” said Sharlene Leurig, a water financing expert with Ceres.
The Boston-based group prepared an analysis two years ago that examines issues confronting public water utilities and their fiscal health in the marketplace, most notably the risk their investors weigh when it comes to borrowing in the municipal bond market, especially for large projects.
In Utah, Colorado, Nevada and other Western states, large diversion projects such as the Lake Powell Pipeline or delivery of water to the Front Range of Colorado are being pursued, even as critics say states should first pursue more aggressive pricing and ways to beef up conservation practices…
Groups like Ceres say that while water districts prepare their own supply and demand blueprints to meet needs into the future, financial managers would be wise to consider a number of factors, including:
Credit rating agencies are starting to build water conservation, pricing and supply risks into their analysis.
Supply constraints are not only impacting the finances of water but aging infrastructure and declining demand are also factors.
Leurig said if the bulk of a water utility’s revenues are solely tied to consumption — and there’s no consumer incentive for conservation — that dynamic does not bode well given national trends of declining consumption.
“Because the majority of systems’ costs are fixed, declines in customer use typically require systems to increase the rates they charge. Yet as systems increase the price they charge per unit of water, their customers use less,” Leurig’s report points out.
“To make up for lost revenue, the water system has to increase the cost of service. … This can create a great deal of discomfort for water managers: they fight the political battle to raise rates, only to see revenue increase by less than that needed to cover costs. And in the meantime, customers are irked that they have to pay more for using less water.”
Leurig said block pricing — bumping water rates up on a graduated scale based on consumption — and scaling impact fees to a home’s “conservation” profile, are examples of how systems can build in sustainability to help them survive longer, on less water and help to delay costly projects.
“In the 21st century, for us to really manage water, we need to understand the economics of water. We have to understand the tools, the pricing, the viability of cost sharing and diversifying our supply,” she said. “Those things are the foundation of what will create a financially resilient system in the 21st century, not just engineering.”
More infrastructure coverage here.
Planning for population growth and water scarcity in the West — The Colorado Springs Independent #COWaterPlanFebruary 23, 2015
From the Colorado Springs Independent (Taylor Winchell):
‘We are booming,” says Jorge Figueroa, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates. In population, that is. But there’s a problem: “You can’t have growth if you don’t have water.”[…]
But we’ve survived drought before.
“The West has been experiencing drought on and off for as long as we have information about rainfall,” says Sally Thompson, University of California at Berkeley professor and hydrologist. Through a detailed study of the oldest living trees in California, scientists have analyzed drought records that date back almost 5,000 years. Supplementing this study are thousands of additional precipitation data sets collected with modern meteorology equipment.
“Every data source we have suggests that droughts are a natural part of the climate of the Western USA,” Thompson says.
And some water advocates argue that the gap between the water available and that which growth will demand can be closed with increased preparation efforts, including conservation.
“Drought is also going to compel us to make those changes even if we are not willing to,” Figueroa says.
The timing for implementing change couldn’t be more perfect, with Colorado developing its first statewide water plan, a first draft of which became available Dec. 10 at coloradowaterplan.com. According to the website, it hopes to illuminate “a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need while supporting healthy watersheds and the environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities, and viable and productive agriculture.”
It’s a daunting challenge, as California’s case makes clear. According to a 2014 report from the California Department of Water Resources on its current extreme drought, water allocations to State Water Project users have been decreased to zero. This includes cutting off water to approximately 750,000 acres of irrigable farmland. One of the most productive agricultural regions in the world has been left to fend for itself.
Can Colorado avoid making similar harsh decisions? Figueroa remains optimistic.
“If you do smart water infrastructure projects, if you do [agriculture]-urban cooperation,” he says, “you maximize reuse and conservation, you would not only fill the gap for the Front Range but you would have water in excess. Conservation is the fastest, cheapest way that you can help cities deal with drought and with climate change.”
River conservation activists have raised concerns about the consideration of any new infrastructure projects in Colorado, which could include dams, reservoirs, diversions and pipelines. The draft of Colorado’s Water Plan makes mention of several of those, including the Northern Integrated Supply Project, Windy Gap Firming Project and Moffat Project, as well as mention of another possible major trans-mountain diversion…
Extending beyond the household to the regional scale, the West should focus its attention on its thriving agricultural industry. According to a 2010 report by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, 86 percent of Colorado’s water goes to agriculture.
“One part of it is making irrigation more efficient, but then there’s the whole other question, from a systems perspective, of what crops are we growing and what crops should we be growing,” says Joseph Kasprzyk, University of Colorado Boulder professor and water resources specialist.
Small improvements in irrigation efficiency integrated with smart crop management can have substantial impacts on regional conservation.
As cities expand, new opportunities arise to facilitate water cooperation between agricultural and urban sectors. Cooperative agreements encourage sharing unused water instead of wasting it. A 2012 Filling the Gap report released by Western Resource Advocates in collaboration with Trout Unlimited and the Colorado Environmental Coalition states that “voluntary and compensated ag/urban cooperative water sharing arrangements can provide 129,000 acre-feet of new supply for the Front Range annually by 2050 without permanently drying irrigated acreage.”
The same report projects that through maximizing opportunities for water reuse, the “Front Range will have approximately 246,000 acre-feet of reuse water available annually in 2050.”
What’s necessary to make these changes come to fruition?
“A good beginning would be funding,” Figueroa says.
Preparing for growth through adaptive water management will require a commitment from a diverse group of contributors, Kaspryzk adds. “This is an integrated problem that requires a lot of people to collaborate to find solutions.”
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.