Water: School water usage examined
All of the water utilities which draw water from City Pond and Lake Varner — the cities of Covington, Oxford, Porterdale, Newborn and Mansfield as well as the water and sewage authorities of Newton, Jasper and Walton Counties — met together last week to brainstorm ways to curtail water consumption.
In order to meet Perdue’s mandate, Newton County must reduce its average water production by 970,000 gallons per day according to figures provided by the Newton County Water and Sewage Authority.
As Newton County is predominantly still residential, the bulk of the water conservation will have to be done by residents. As such the water utilities are focusing their efforts on educational awareness with private users.
According to Hopkins, of the authority’s 22,000 water users, only approximately 200 of them are industrial/commercial accounts.
With water use spread out among such a large base of customers rather than with a few major industrial users, the job of policing water use is very complicated for the county.
“It’s kind of hard to police residential people,” Hopkins said. “Hopefully they will help participate on their own indoors.”
Since the meeting, all water utilities have been busy compiling lists of their biggest water users.
According to Hopkins, four of the largest users of the Water and Sewage Authority are members of the Newton County School System who share one master meter between two schools.
Sharing a master meter together, Newton High School and Porterdale Elementary made the list along with Clements Middle School and Fairview Elementary School who also share a master meter.
Veterans Middle School and West Newton Elementary School who share a meter on Brown Bridge Road made the list as did Alcovy High School.
“They’re not being excessive water hogs, it’s just they have ‘x’ number of hundreds of kids,” said Hopkins of the schools’ water use.
Other top water users of the Water and Sewage Authority include Arbor Lake Apartments and Summerset Apartments.
As with the schools, the two apartment complexes each have a single master meter which keeps track of the water usage of hundreds of apartments said Hopkins.
The city of Covington is the only water utility whose largest water customers are all industrial users. Covington City Manager Steve Horton said the city has compiled a list of its largest users and is currently meeting with them to discuss ways they can lower their water consumption.
Revenues in question
As the county and its municipalities earn revenue from the sale of water, local administrators are closely monitoring water sales as they will affect the budgeting process for the next fiscal year.
“We certainly are concerned about it and we’ll keep an eye on it because there are debt service payments that come out of it,” said County Executive Officer John Middleton.
According to Middleton, the county uses water revenues to pay for the cost of operating the water and sewage system and to pay off debt from the construction of water treatment plants.
Middleton said the county had budgeted $6.8 million in water revenues for FY 2007-FY 2008.
“That was not an aggressive number that we budgeted,” Middleton said. “We budgeted expenditures that matched that.”
With four months of the fiscal year already past, the county is anticipating a 10 percent decline on the remaining eight months of the fiscal year, which before the restrictions would have brought in an estimated $4.5 million.
Therefore the county is anticipating a decline of $450,000 in water revenues for the fiscal year said Middleton
If the county believes that it will not be able to service the debt with the decreased revenues Middleton said it will likely have to consider raising the internal wholesale water rate for customers which is currently $1.51 per 1,000 gallons of water.
Middleton said he didn’t expect it to come to that though.
“We evaluate the water rate annually based on the cost of operations and debt service,” Middleton said. “Obviously if the volume of water being sold doesn’t cover operations plus debt service then the whole sale water rate that we charge would increase.”
Likewise Horton said the city of Covington was also factoring in decreased water revenues into its budget for the next year.
However Horton said the city has already cut water consumption 16 percent over the period of December 2006 to October 2007 compared to the same period from December 2005 to October 2006.
After adding back the savings from water which Covington will not purchase from the county because of the water restrictions, Horton said the city is anticipating a $400,000 loss in water revenue over the next fiscal year.
“We’re estimating that our revenues in water and sewer are going to be somewhere between 15 and 20 percent less than they were last year,” Horton said.
Because the Covington City Council recently paid off $3.2 million in Georgia Environmental Facilities Authorities loans with the proceeds from the sale of Covington Cable, Horton said the city has reduced the amount of money it normally expends each year servicing its GEFA debt and may not have to raise its water rates.
“That should offset the city’s payback requirement to some degree,” Horton said.
For tips on how to reduce water consumption in your own home visit: www.conservewatergeorgia. net.