Why Is Suhm Asking Council to Extend Watering Restrictions? "Water Sales," In Part.

DallasWaterReservoirsJan26.JPG
When Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm first told the council it was time, at long last, to enact twice-a-week watering restrictions, Dallas's six water-supply reservoirs were about 25 percent depleted. But last week's record rainfall, in addition to other recent wet-weather events, have helped fill area lakes as evidenced by the city's latest look-see. They haven't been this high since last February. Nevertheless ...

Tomorrow Suhm will tell the council that there is the need to extend Stage 1 watering restrictions for another 120 days -- till June 8, at least. Which should make Scott Griggs happy, if nothing else.

The reasons, per the briefing docs, are myriad. For starters, says the note to council, ongoing construction at the East Side Water Treatment will "result in a temporary water treatment capacity restriction of 680 MGD for Dallas' treated water system during the Spring/Summer of 2012." And, of course, Dallas continues to sell water to outlying districts not as fortunate as ours; says the briefing the North Texas Municipal Water District could ask for "up to 60 MGD," while Irving and the Upper Trinity Regional Water District's future needs are yet to be determined. And: "Luminant has requested additional water from Lake Fork for a two year term expiring December 31, 2013."

Says the briefing: "Water sales, assuming drought conditions continue as forecasted, may require Dallas to implement stronger drought measures, i.e., Stages 2-4."

The whole thing's below. As always, pray for rain. Friday, maybe. CODDroughtUpdateWaterUtilitiesDepartment_02012012
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21 comments
LaceyB
LaceyB

Short showers blow. But if people are pissy about "wah wah my lawn is browning", the question remains, "Are you happy with the amount of bush you have?" Now, that can always be cut back. And, it saves water, too. Stage 2-4? Nah. Operation Clear Water-Taking Bush will save the city!

claytonauger
claytonauger

At the same time, Dallas Water Utilities is inviting all the region's gas drillers over to Dallas with open arms, arguing there's billions of gallons of Dallas water the City can afford to forfeit forever to T. Boone and his friends. One gas well fracking job = 3-7 million gallons of water. A well can be fracked anywhere from 2 to 7 or more times. There are hundreds of lease sites the City has already offered the operators on city land, including parks and recreation areas. Do the math. And after ti comes back out of one hole, all that water has to be disposed of miles below the earth in another where it will never be of use to anyone or anything again. At exactly the time when Dallas is saying we need to conserve water, the Powers That Be are planning the largest single industrial water giveaway in the city's history. Heck of a job.

Anon
Anon

I still don't understand why we don't plug holes in our budget by charging other districts more for water. Maybe we do. We need to raise the price. Water is going to be the limiting resource to DFW's sprawl. It could have been highway finance, but we'll just toll everything. It could be energy but that will also be tied to water.

joejoethedogfaceboy
joejoethedogfaceboy

I don't understand all the hand wringing about whether or not to extend the watering restrictions.  Simple math tells you that the population growth around here is outpacing our water supply.  Throw in a couple more record-drought summers and we're all in big trouble, restrictions or not.  Is it really the end of the world if you can only water your lawn twice a week?  I suppose it is if your name is Tom Hicks...

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

You should also point out that the rate charged by the City of Dallas for water to be used for fracking is much cheaper than the rate charged to residential customers.  Again, very idiotic.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

I absolutely agree, but the suburbs control the Texas Legislature and, as a result, have made sure the Leg dictates the maximum Dallas can charge.  But doing away with that and letting the market rule (after all, aren't those same Legislators the guys who say the market should dictate no matter what) should be at the top of the city's legislative priority list.

Melissa
Melissa

The problem is, the Tom Hicks of the city who can afford sprinkler systems can run them all night long, or from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 a.m..  People who work and can only water two days a week before 10:00 or after 6:00 can't get enough water on their yard to water properly.  I leave for work at 7:00 a.m - can't do it in the morning.  It takes two hours for the sprinkler running in one place to put an inch of water down, thus it takes eight hours or more to water my back yard.  I only water once a week or less  and only when it is exceptionally hot and dry.

Anon
Anon

is there some official justification given for this? I assume they say that commercial users generate jobs and to charge them more for the water would hurt those jobs? I'm just grasping at straws here. I guess the flipside is that businesses also give their largest customers discounts. not sure that's the right way to think about a monopoly pricing structure though.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

It seems odd, however that residential customers living in the City of Dallas pay far higher rates than some suburban customers for the exact same water from Dallas Water Utilities.

joejoethedogfaceboy
joejoethedogfaceboy

Ah!  My bad;  I hadn't thought about the people who are watering manually.  (I have to admit I'm in the 'burbs right now in a relatively new house with automatic sprinklers, though I'll be moving into D city limits very soon...)

Anon
Anon

The cities served by NTMWD all have very different residential pricing structures. Some are more than Dallas Water Utilities, some are much lower. All seem to have graduated block pricing, but the rates vary widely. Graduated pricing automatically charges those who use more water and is a built in conservation strategy.

Water is not a City of Dallas problem, it is a regional problem. We all have to cooperate together to manage this problem - Dallas, the suburbs, and folks who live hundreds of miles from here where Dallas and NTMWD need to build lakes to support not just the folks who live here now, but the millions more who are coming over the next few decades. As much as some who post here refuse to admit it, Dallas needs the suburbs just as the suburbs need Dallas. It is a symbiotic relationship.

BTW, the cities that make up the NTMWD have very different residential per capita water usage patterns. They are all very different cities, developed at different times, with different demographics, retail, commercial, and industrial compositions. It is impossible to generalize about the NTMWD member and customer cities. It would be interesting to see a break-down of the per capita water usage patterns of ALL the DFW MSA cities. (That's a hint, Robert. Got an intern you can foist the assignment off on?)

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

The answer is always "it generates jobs" when they can figure out no real justification.  See in point today's DMN's headline about the Texas Technology Fund.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I'm not sure what the City's rationale is, but it is interesting to note that the suburbs that purchase water from Dallas Water Utilities approach water pricing very differently.

As I noted in another post, residents of the City of Dallas that are heavy users of water pay the highest rates of residents of any of the jurisdictions served by Dallas Water Utlities.

In contrast, commercial users in the City of Dallas pay some of the lowest rates when compared to those commercial users in other jurisdictions served by Dallas Water Utilities.

ItchyJack
ItchyJack

Happy Days to you Brenda Marks. 

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Dear Itchy -- No sympathy here.  North Texas Municipal Water District allowed rampant growth in its system cities served to far outpace its available water sources.  Plano, Richardson, Collin and Denton Counties made their bed.  That's why you've been in Stage 4 for months.  Far as I'm concerned, they can lie in it.

And if you want to solve the issue of commercial overuse, you need to call all those Republican legislators in Richardson, Plano, Frisco, who control the Leg.  Good luck with that.

Anon
Anon

Plano is further along in water restrictions too. My point wasn't that this is a city vs suburbs thing in terms of residential usage (and you are right about commercial use being the true drain). I just think that Dallas should charge more when it sells our water (to Dallas residents as well, but definitely to other districts), just like any business should charge more for a scarce resource. it's wasted all over the Metroplex currently.

ItchyJack
ItchyJack

You and Brenda are certainly welcome to buy your own float in the next Earth Day parade, but really?

Are you aware that we in the suburbs - at least in Richardson - have been in Stage 4 restrictions since November - and you're whining about stage 2?

Wake up!  It's not the suburbs - it's the commercial industries and city governments.  It's the gas companies sucking down the state's water resources billions of gallons at a time/year that have the water districts crapping their pants wondering what they're going to do in the future.  But of course career politicians know who float their next campaign don't they?  So, they're going to set up long-term contracts with the likes of Luminant.  Can't blame Luminant - they see the writing on the wall.

Also, it's the zebra muscles.  They (NTMWD) have already shut down one of our reservoirs because of them.  But hey - things are looking up - the idiots are thinking of opening the spigots from Lake Texoma and contaminate the remaining clean surface water resources.

You two should go ahead and enjoy your city vs. suburbs commentary.  It's entertaining.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

And you're correct.  It's a ginormous flaw in the system.  And Dallas should set end-user rates based on the amount of water consumed.  Supposedly Dallas Water Utilities and Mary's office are "reviewing" the pricing structure.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

You're correct.  But to me, that seems like a big flaw in the system.  A huge driver of conservation is the price paid by the ultimate consumer of water.

Under present pricing structures, a heavy residential user of water (i.e. someone who has a big lawn and waters it every day) pays far less for Dallas Water Utilities water in the suburbs than that same customer would pay if they were to live with the city limits of Dallas.  That just seems wacky.

In other words, even though the City of Dallas operates Dallas Water Utilities (which serves a large amount of North Texas), it only really controls user behavior within the city limits-- where it can set end user rates and enforce conservation efforts.  Suburban users of City of Dallas water are free to squander water at bargain rates (compared to Dallas resident rates).

Also, I know that at least one suburb with an ability to purchase from multiple water systems chooses, as a matter of policy, to purchase as much water as possible from Dallas Water Utlities, because DWU charges less than North Texas Muncipal Water District-- again, that's just crazy when that behavior requires City of Dallas residents to make sacrifices for their benefit.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

When I mentioned the maximum Dallas could charge, I was referring to water-system-to-water-system sales, not "retail" rates.  Local authorities (whether Dallas Water Utilities or North Texas Water Utilities) still set their own customer rates.

Anon
Anon

you may know the answer. I assume our water authority has debt? I also assume that we are either implicitly or explicitly on the hook for it? if so, I'd make the case that we should pay quite a bit less, since we will be taxed for any shortfall if it ever happened. 

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