The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

March 24, 2013

Small-town residents learn to cope with little water


Motive to save

Lone Chimney members have been blitzed with conservation literature attached to their monthly bills for two years. Some evidence indicates they have decreased their water usage.

Water association customers cut back nearly 4 million gallons of water a month from December to February, said Hensley, the association board member. But some of that decrease can be attributed to member towns like Morrison and Agra going off lake association water.

A closer gauge of water conservation can be found in the district’s distribution plants.

Terlton, a town of 35 in Pawnee County, is part of the Pawnee Rural Water District 2, which serves a total of 1,775 customers as far north as Cleveland on the Arkansas River. Customers on those lines were asked to conserve, and they reduced their water use per capita from 6,278 gallons a month in July to 3,119 gallons in February, a Terlton administrator said. Part of that drop was due to the seasonal cooling, but town officials were impressed.

Residents in Yale also were urged late last summer to reduce their water usage. The townspeople, who consumed 5.9 million gallons of water in July, responded by using only 3.2 million gallons in October, said Welch, the city manager.

“I’ve been very proud of how our town responded,” Welch said. “They heard our pleas, and responded in a big way.”

Research may provide a clearer picture on what has driven Lone Chimney residents to conserve.

Tracy Boyer, an associate professor in agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University, is a conservation expert who is overseeing an honor student’s study of the district, focusing mainly on Glencoe.

“We looked at non-paid and paid incentives,” Boyer said. “We’ve found that people will generally voluntarily cut back on their water usage as long as there is publicity to remind them. But once those promotional campaigns begin to fade, people fall back into their old habits.

“Ultimately, the best way for people to conserve water is when it hits them financially.”

The Lone Chimney association has raised its water rates twice in the past two years to spur people to conserve. The association plans to raise them again to help pay for the pipeline. The district also has imposed surcharges on the first 1,000 and 2,000 gallons consumed.

Such rate hikes could be in store for many other Oklahomans if the drought continues and cities look to increase conservation. Oklahoma City is studying whether to charge higher water rates for consumers who use excessive amounts.

The state also has made conservation a priority. Last year, the Legislature approved the Water for 2060 Act, which sets a goal that Oklahoma consume no more fresh water in 2060 than was consumed in 2012.

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