Refreshingly Clear Water Answers

By. Neil Williamson, President

In the wonkish water demand analysis world of “per capita consumption” and “historic rain fall data” and “demand trend curves”, it is most refreshing to have a consultant explain in clear terms the rationale behind the numbers.

While the Demand Forecast Report may be dry (pun intended) the associated memorandum is filled to the rim with examples of consumer decisions greatly impacting this community’s water demand.

Please let me explain.

As Brian Wheeler of Charlottesville Tomorrow reported in today’s (8/30) Daily Progress article:

A 50-year water demand forecast for Charlottesville-Albemarle has been updated in advance of a public hearing to be held in September.  AECOM Technology Corp.’s projections now show slightly less water consumption, but greater projected population growth.

Download Download AECOM’s August 2011 water demand forecast

Late last week, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority released AECOM’s final forecast updating a July draft. The state is requiring localities to submit a comprehensive water supply plan by Nov. 2.

Last week (8/24), Kim Shorter, a water supply specialist with AECOM,  wrote a memo to Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority Executive Director Tom Frederick responding to the public’s questions about the Draft Water Demand Forecasts.

The memo provided direct answers to the public questions in an unusually candid manner.

Charlottesville Tomorrow covered the July public input session and highlighted a question from Rebecca Quinn, chair of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan:

“I do not believe conservation has been adequately accounted for,” said Quinn. “We have got to include the savings with faucets and showerheads. You may think it’s negligible, but it may make a difference to us.”

multiple showerheadsIn her memo, Shorter explains that despite the requirements in the National Energy Policy Act, a number of fixtures are still available that exceed the 2.5 gallon a minute standard.

She also highlighted the  trend for multiple showerheads in a single stall is becoming popular and is not illegal.

The most telling remark about the showerhead discussion was:

Without the inspection and testing of a representative and random sampling of shower fixtures in Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville, the impacts of non-conforming and non-compliant fixtures on current and future water demand reductions cannot be reasonably estimated. [Emphasis added-nw]

Many of the same consumer driven concerns regarding showers were true in conservation assessment of faucets as well.  hands free faucetShorter wrote:

For most faucets, it is as easy to alter the flow rate as it is to open a plastic bottle; simply turn the aerator until it is removed.  Similar to the multiple spray showerheads, the automated shut-off faucets have become very popular but result in higher water use.  Multiple studies have shown that the infrared automatic shut-off faucets use more water than the traditional fixtures.

In addition to answering questions about low water use clothes washers as well as the population numbers used, Shorter’s memo clearly addressed most, if not all, of the concerns raised in the public input session.

The public is well served by the clear answers in the report as well as in the memo.

One can anticipate many of the same voices raising these issues (and others) when this report is presented at the September 13th meeting of the four Boards (Charlottesville City Council, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority and Albemarle County Service Authority) for public hearing.

It is important to note, the reason this report is required by the state is to mandate community planning for an adequate future water supply.  If, as a community, we conserve more water than we project, our community water supply will serve us longer than we project.  If the population grows more slowly than anticipated the community water supply will serve us longer than anticipated.

But we remain concerned, as Charlottesville Tomorrow reported our comments from the July meeting:

Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, said he worried about water supply planning that depended too heavily on future conservation efforts.

“I hope as a community we embrace conservation, but we shouldn’t count our chickens before they are hatched,” Williamson said.

The question remains, how much of our future water supply can we comfortably “bet” on voluntary consumer conservation efforts?

And if we bet wrong, what level of mandated conservation efforts are we willing to accept?

And, at that point, will we have a choice?

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


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, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website


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