The city of Cedar Park exceeded its five-year water conservation goal for residential customers by more than 10% from 2014-19. The city is considering new goals and processes to improve water conservation even further in the next five years.
The city measures water volume in gallons per capita per day, or gpcd. In 2014, Cedar Park aimed to reduce the gpcd for residential customers by 2.5% by 2019, according to city documents. Members of the community exceeded that goal, reducing gpcd for residents by nearly 13%, said Nanette McCartan, utility programs manager for the city of Cedar Park, during a meeting April 11.
Reducing water usage
McCartan said a number of factors led to this reduction, including the implementation of watering schedules during droughts and the city’s promotion of water conservation education and compliance.
“The last five or six years we went through a wide variety of weather patterns,” McCartan said during the meeting. “We started out that time with [a]voluntary watering schedule. Then we moved into stage two water restrictions, which is twice per week watering. … Then we were kind of pushed into [a]stage three scenario with the extreme drought, which was once per week watering. All of that contributed to the reduced gallons per capita per day.”
The city is considering a new goal to further reduce water consumption in the next five years. The current residential average is 91 gpcd, according to McCartan. The city is looking to reduce that average to 90.1, or by 1%, by 2024.
“We encourage customers to take advantage of our latest tool which is the customer water usage portal that allows residents to track hourly usage and to set usage alerts,” McCartan said during the meeting.
Updating the Water Conservation Plan
The city of Cedar Park is considering this goal as part of its regular five-year update to the city’s Water Conservation Plan, which aims to ensure water is used efficiently throughout Cedar Park, according to city documents. The plan outlines water conservation goals and provides strategies for reducing water consumption.
The city’s Drought Contingency and Water Emergency Plan is also in the process of being updated. This plan aims to ensure the city has enough water resources, according to city documents.
Cedar Park City Council held public hearings on the proposed changes April 11. The plans will come back for final approval April 25, according to city documents. The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality requires updates to these plans every five years, according to city documents.
A plan for droughts and emergencies
The Drought Contingency and Water Emergency Plan outlines water conservation stages. When water demand nears the operating system’s treatment capacity, Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan get too low or drought conditions set in, different drought response stages and regulations are put into effect. The stages are ranked 1-5 in increasing severity and result in various nonessential water use restrictions throughout the city.
When residential and commercial water customers do not comply with these restrictions, they are first given a warning followed by fees if violations continue. Currently, there is a 12-month reset period on the process from a warning letter to a fee. This means if a customer violates a restriction once in 12 months, he or she will simply receive a warning. If the customer violates the fee again a year or more later, the process has since started over, so the customer would again only receive a warning.
The city is proposing the reset period be lengthened to 24 months. McCartan said this change is being recommended in order to help gain compliance from water users.
“We seem to have a little bit greater challenge in gaining compliance with some of the commercial and multi-family properties,” McCartan said during the meeting. “Issues we currently see are not adhering to the water schedule, water waste and significant runoff that frequently results in dangerous driving conditions on the roadways.”
From June through September of 2018, the city had 320 violations, according to McCartan. Commercial and multi-family entities make up 7 percent of the account base, but they made up 33 percent of the violations.
Another change being proposed for the Drought Contingency and Water Emergency Plan is allowing single-family residential water users to water their food-supplying vegetable gardens during the first three drought response stages, an action that is not currently addressed in the plan.