How Much Water Should We Plan For?

By Neil Williamson, President

Opponents of the approved community water supply (Charlottesville & Albemarle) often suggest that the demand numbers being pursued are too high.  Based on the drop in demand over the past couple of years, they suggest the trend line should be permanently altered.

water dropIn addition, some suggest in 30 years we will be handling water differently (using gray water, etc.) and this will decrease our demand for water.

As a community we can not see the future but we can make a strategic decision not to predict how much we water we will be using in 2060, rather to determine what level of capacity should we plan for.  This should be a statement of fact by all four boards impacting the decision (Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Albemarle County Service Authority, Charlottesville City Council and Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority).

Looking at the question academically, the metric used for projecting demand is gallons per capita (person) per day.  Built into this metric are business, domestic, hospital and fire protection uses. 

Benchmarking is a tool all localities use to determine their relative position to the rest of their “peer” localities.  DEQlogow Based on 2007 data from Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Office of Water Supply Planning, The Free Enterprise Forum has compiled a chart listing how much water is being planned for by a variety of different jurisdictions across Virginia. 


gross gallons per person per day









South Boston




















Front Royal






Is it wise for Albemarle and Charlottesville to be at the bottom of this list?

With all the snow of the past winter and solid rainy springs, one might forget the water restrictions that were in place in August 2007:

  1. The washing of automobiles, trucks, trailers or any other type of mobile equipment except    in licensed commercial vehicle wash facilities.
  2. The washing of streets, driveways, parking lots, service station aprons, office buildings, exteriors of homes or apartments or other outdoor surfaces except where mandated by state or local ordinance or when performed by a licensed commercial power-washing company.
  3. The watering of outside shrubbery, trees, lawns, grass, plants, home vegetable gardens, or any other vegetation, except from a watering can or other container not exceeding three gallons in capacity. This limitation shall not apply to commercial greenhouse or nursery stocks, athletic fields and courts, which may be watered only between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., and only as necessary to preserve plant life.
  4. The operation of any ornamental fountain or other structure with a similar use of water.
  5. The filling of swimming or wading pools requiring more than five gallons of water, or the refilling of swimming or wading pools which were drained after the effective date of this ordinance, except that pools may be filled to a level of two feet below normal, or water may be added to bring the level to two feet below normal, or as necessary to protect the structure from hydrostatic damage, as to pools constructed or contracted for on or before the effective date of this ordinance.
  6. The service of drinking water in restaurants except upon request.
  7. The use of water from fire hydrants for any purposes other than fire suppression unless otherwise specifically approved by the Executive Director.
  8. The operation of any water-cooled comfort air-conditioning, which does not have water conserving equipment in operation.

The Free Enterprise Forum looks forward to the results of the revised demand analysis study and hopes that the community will look forward with confidence in future water supply planning.  The results of inadequate infrastructure will likely include an increased likelihood of drought restrictions and the resultant economic decline.


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website


2 responses

  1. This morning, Charlottesville Tomorrow has an excellent post outlining Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris’ desire for a new demand projection.

  2. Thank you Neil for the article on the demand analysis. Finding the sweet spot for water consumption 50 years into the future is a futile exercise. Increased prices will surely drop water consumption but increased population will bring economy of scale. The trend towards urban living will increase the percentage of county residents on the system.
    We are not living in the desert Southwest. Our problem is not too little water but too little storage. There is no reason why this community should have to institute drought restrictions again after we get the new dam and pipeline in place.

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