By Bill McKee, staff writer
Moscow-Pullman Daily News
November 30, 2013
The city of Pullman is planning to continue relying on what has worked for it in the past as it updates its water conservation plan.
The city’s last water conservation plan, developed in 2008 to meet the requirements of the state Department of Health’s 2007 Water Use Efficiency Rule, relied heavily on a toilet rebate program, along with free water-conserving devices, such as faucet aerators and leak detection dye tablets.
Those programs managed to reduce water consumption in the city from about 291 per capita gallons per day in 2004-06 to 230 gallons per day in 2013, a reduction of 6.9 percent, said Ben Floyd of Anchor QEA, an environmental and engineering consulting firm hired to update the city’s plan.
“Our original goal in 2008 was to save 40,353 gallons per day. Currently, in terms of savings so far, the city will be at a little over 35,000 gallons per day by the end of 2013,” Floyd said.
In the new plan, Floyd said an additional 28,183 gallons per day are hoped to be saved by 2019 through an expanded version of the toilet rebate program, a new water-efficient washing machine rebate program and the continued offer for the same free water-conservation devices from the 2008 plan. The plan also includes two new programs, water use surveys and lawn removal credits, through which they hope to gain some additional savings.
With the popularity of the toilet rebate program during the past six years, Pullman Maintenance and Operations Superintendent Art Garro said he’s not surprised it’s being expanded in the future plan.
“The rebate program has been by far the single most popular since we started six years ago. We’re still getting about the same number of applications now as we did in the beginning,” Garro said.
The program allows Pullman residents and businesses to switch out an old toilet with a low-flush model to be eligible for up to a $125 rebate.
The continued use of programs offering free water saving devices, which combined have saved nearly double what the toilet rebate program did, is also no surprise.
And these programs are the only ones for which savings can actually be quantified.
Other unquantifiable aspects of the 2008 plan being carried over into the new one include conservation pricing, with higher rates during the dry season, water efficient landscape management practices on city properties, customer bills that show consumptive history and other education efforts.
Despite the positive effects brought about by the city’s past plan – the amount of water consumed annually has dropped during the past decade by about 140 million gallons even with a growing populace – some people still say the update should include more measures.
Julie Titone, of the Palouse Water Conservation Network, said she believes the city’s new plan should also include an ordinance restricting irrigation in a manner similar to Moscow, which has an irrigation season when residents have to wait until the cooler hours of the evening in order to water their lawns.
It’s a sentiment that was echoed by many as Pullman accepted public comment in recent weeks on the proposed update, Floyd said.
Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney expressed her hope for such a measure in a letter to the Pullman Public Works Department last week.
“(A) conservation method that seems to be working well in Moscow, and that I hope Pullman will also consider, is an ordinance to establish a watering season and prohibit daytime watering loss by evaporation,” Chaney wrote.
Other programs that both Titone and Chaney expressed a desire to see were requirements for water-conserving landscape management, already required for developments on city-owned property, extended to commercial developments, and a joint public information effort and water conservation campaign involving all the entities that draw from the local aquifers.
“I would really like to see Pullman put its shoulder behind a regional public information effort. Pullman is the biggest user of water in the region and if they don’t get behind such an effort it’s probably not going to happen,” Titone said.
While he doesn’t think the city will be a part of the plan as it pushes ahead to 2019, Pullman’s Public Works Director Kevin Gardes said some of those ideas are not out of the realm of possibility.
“There has been some consideration for it and it may come to that at some point, but we’re trying to start off with an education approach first,” Gardes said. “A lot of these are steps in the right direction, but there will be a continual re-evaluation of these efforts through the years.”
The goals and measures outlined in the update will be included in Pullman’s overall water plan, expected to be reviewed by the Department of Health sometime during the spring of 2014. Once it has their approval, it will head to the Pullman City Council for a vote later in the summer.
To view a copy of the city’s proposed water conservation plan, click on this shortened link, http://goo.gl/3NNJzH. To learn more about the city’s water conservation rebate programs and free water conserving devices, along with the city’s educational information on the subject, go to this shortened link, http://goo.gl/319psr.