Every time an irrigation system runs, a faucet is turned on, a toilet flushed or dishes washed, a business supplies a product. The function of supplying water and removing waste is a service usually supplied by a quasi-governmental controlled monopoly … oops, business. Water should be free, right? After all, water is a fundamental component of people and plants. This is the one of the many roots of the problem when it comes to water rates. The other problem is water conservation.
Smart irrigation (ET controllers, low flow heads, drip, etc.) and turf conversion programs combined with other successful water conservation programs such as improved water-saving fixtures, technology and a number of other factors, have resulted in decreasing water sales and water-related revenues on a national level. In other words, the water supply industry is trying to operate with a declining revenue stream, which is not a sustainable way to conduct business.
While revenues are declining, costs of treating the water and delivering it to the customer is increasing. Operating costs for water companies are dominated by labor, supplies, energy, chemicals, purchased water (where applicable) and debt servicing in the form of bond payments. New contamination threats, escalating chemical costs and new or recently enforced federal and state water quality regulations are driving overhead costs up.
The only way to cover these increases is to raise the cost of the water.
Double cost. While water utilities struggle to replace the old pipes, they must also plan for future growth in sprawling suburban areas where new distribution pipes have to be installed, and increased population density in urban areas where water capacity is fixed with the existing infrastructure.
In order to ensure we have ample, safe and reliable water in the future, the cost of the water must continue to increase. In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued the Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s water and wastewater infrastructure a D-.
The same report also noted that drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion in funding needed to replace aging facilities to comply with existing and future federal water regulations.
Going up. Water rates will continue to increase. Should customers continue to conserve? Absolutely, positively, yes! Conservation will continue to be the cheapest source of water. Water saved is water that doesn’t have to be purchased. With the water rates continuing to rise precipitously, water conservation helps offset future expenditures.
Rising water costs can have a side benefit for landscape and irrigation contractors. As the cost of water rises, the ROI for landscape and irrigation improvement projects related to water conservation become more attractive for owners and managers.
A project from last year that may have had a 24-36 month ROI may have seen a 10 percent reduction in time this year and another 10 percent reduction in time next year.
In other words, the increasing water rates may result in the customer seeing the benefit of water conservation five to six months sooner than previously expected.
Water conservation continues to be a viable discussion in the landscape and irrigation industry. So whether designing, installing, maintaining or managing an irrigation system, be sure to follow the best management practices outlined by the Irrigation Association.
The author is drector of sales operations at ValleyCrest Landscape Cos.