Conservation efforts stop at tap

City's water usage stayed the same during energy crisis

Posted: Tuesday, July 01, 2008

During the recent energy crisis, Juneau turned off the lights but kept the water running.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

While citywide electric usage dropped by more than 30 percent after avalanches led to a 447 percent increase in residential electric rates in May, the city's water usage stayed the same during that period.

The city used about 3.6 million gallons of water a day in May, according to the water utility department.

Mayor Bruce Botelho asked Juneau's residents to conserve water in a May 18 editorial in the Empire. Lower water usage would have lowered the city's electric bill, the mayor said. Electric-powered pumps are the source of much of the city's electrical use.

But his plea fell on deaf ears as water usage failed to drop.

Botelho said the shortened repair schedule of the severed electrical transmission lines lessened the effect on Juneau's water consumption habits.

"We would have seen some difference had the crisis continued longer term," Botelho said.

Water utility Superintendent Liam Carnahan said water conservation is a tough sell in a town as wet as Juneau.

"The average citizen just doesn't see conservation as an issue when we're getting drenched all the time," Carnahan said.

Even when water rates went up by 19 percent and wastewater fees increased 39 percent four years ago, there was only a marginal difference in water consumption, Carnahan said.

The majority of the city's customers pay a monthly rate and are not charged for the amount of water used.

Carnahan said Juneau residents don't have to worry about running out of water soon, but should be "mindful" and "responsible" of their water consumption habits so the city doesn't have to invest in costly infrastructure projects in the future.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or e-mail alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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