Last year, utilities struggled to provide enough water to quench a withering drought.
This year, demand is declining as rain-soaked subdivisions remain lush and green – without irrigation.
“It looks like our usage is down about 500 million gallons from 2011, and more than 300 million gallons from 2012,” said Bill Clayton, the director of Columbia County’s Water Utility.
The figures are for the first six months of the year and don’t include July, which has been extremely wet so far this year, he said.
The 14 percent decline from last year, he said, illustrates how excess rainfall can affect water use among the county’s 40,000 connections, most of which are single-family homes with yards.
So far this year, the biggest drop in production has been during June. The county’s Clarks Hill Water Treatment Plant, which produced 131 million gallons in June last year, pumped just 79 million gallons this June, according to county records.
For the first half of the year, total water use was 2.548 billion gallons, compared with 2.866 billion gallons during the first half of 2012, Clayton said.
Although the county is selling less water, the reduced demand doesn’t
affect the utility’s financial operations.
“When we set our budgets, it’s according to what we get in fixed revenues,” he said, and extra money is invested back into the system.
Augusta Utilities customers are also using less water, said Allen Saxon, the department’s assistant director for facility operations.
For the first half of 2013, residents used 6.317 billion gallons, or 35.09 million gallons per day.
During the same period in 2012, consumption was 6.778 billion gallons, averaging 37.45 million gallons per day.
The difference, Saxon said, amounts to 2.36 million gallons per day less than last year, with July figures not yet averaged in.
Water revenues declined about $13,800 as a result – from $17,655,087 last year to $17,641,287 for the first half of this year.