When there are water shortages, conservation means seeing lawns dry out and plants die.
But there’s another side this problem as many residents of California are discovering. There are fixed costs in operating a water treatment plant. In normal times this cost is offset by revenues from consumer fees based on water usage. The problem comes up when consumers use less water and the revenue paid to the water treatment plants drops as you would expect. Therein lies the rub – to provide service the water treatment plants must be able to cover their costs, so when the revenue drops what is the most likely course of action? To increase the rates charged for the lower quantity of water used.
This is very true in California today. After Governor Brown ordered communities to cut back their water usage, the water treatment agencies are finding themselves facing significant operating deficits. The AP reported recently that the City of Santa Barbara projected an operating loss of $5 million based on residents cutting water usage by 20%. If that wasn’t a hard enough pill to swallow, the residents of Santa Barbara are cutting back even further. In May they cut back 37% from normal usage. That’s leaving the utility in a real jam and water bills have been rising to make up the difference.
This is a good lesson in economic reality. The books must balance otherwise we might find ourselves in a situation like Greece.
By the way, if you purify your water with a distiller, you are not wasting water in good times or bad.
The Great California Drought: It’s been all over the news lately that California is getting into more and more trouble with the continuing drought and dwindling water supply. Not enough people are conserving it, crops need it and enforcing conservation is extremely difficult. While everyone is concerned about the amount of water being used, few people think about the quality of water being used.
During a drought, water levels are low because much of the water has been evaporated and not replenished. The water that is available will be more concentrated with contaminants. During these times, we can expect to see an increase in nitrates, organic and inorganic minerals, bacteria, pesticides and herbicides in the remaining water supply. In addition, California’s municipal water treatment facilities will be pressed to treat and recycle the remaining available drinking water supply at a faster rate, which will adversely affect the quality of water. Many municipal water supplies will add additional chlorinate to the water to kill bacteria. This means it is very likely that Californians will be getting more chlorine in tap water then they are accustomed to.
What does this mean for the water conscious home consumer? Bottled water is an option. However, the consumer should be made aware that bottled water, if treated or filtered at all, is often of variable quality and will likely be of lesser quality in a drought when the available water inputs are of lesser quality. In addition, the process of bottling and filtering water is extremely wasteful for our resources and the environment. Finally, the cost of bottled water can quickly add up. There are several options available for environmentally and cost conscious consumers. Home treatment systems known as ‘point of use’ POU systems for drinking water purification are a common option. These include barrier treatment methods such as ‘RO’ reverse osmosis, filtration and distillation. As with bottled water, RO systems are very inefficient and waste water. Also, with the increase in contamination, filters are not only going to deteriorate faster and need to be replaced more often, but their initial effectiveness will be lower. This can become especially expensive for RO systems which require regular replacement filters.
A sensible alternative are distillation POU systems. Distillation systems offer a high quality, eco-friendly and cost-conscious option. A quality U.S. made distiller will consistently remove 99.9+% of water contaminants without wasting a lot of water. Bacteria is killed in the boiling process and practically all of the contaminants are removed when the water becomes vapor and then re-condenses, leaving fresh, pure water for you and your family to drink.