Editorial: People realizing water is scarce
In basic economics, scarcity determines the value of commodities.
Water certainly is a scarce commodity in this high mountain desert country, and depending on how the Big Chino water pipeline project plays out, it could become more scarce.
Reporter Cindy Barks' Sunday story about water use patterns in Prescott and Prescott Valley showed that top residential water users account for anywhere from 4 percent of total water use in their communities to as much as 35 percent depending on the community and the time of year.
The top water user in Prescott consumed 595,855 gallons in Prescott in 2008, and the top user in Prescott Valley drew 552,000 gallons. The average water user in Prescott uses 80,000 gallons a year, and in Prescott Valley, the figure is 66,000 gallons a year.
Prescott City Manager Steve Norwood said the top water use figures were "astonishing numbers." He noted his personal usage is 60,000 gallons a year.
In Prescott Valley, the town reports that 1,708 water users exceeded the 20,000-gallons-a-month usage level in June 2007. They accounted for about 8 percent of the total 14,500 customers at the time who used a total of 42 million gallons. That translates to about one-third of the total use that month. In January, however, Prescott Valley officials said 264 customers exceeded 20,000 gallons that month, and the 6.4 million gallons they used amounted to 9 percent of the 71.5 million gallons that all residential customers used.
In Prescott, Water Management Analyst Connie Tucker said 154 customers exceeded the 20,000-gallon-a-month usage level in 2008, which amounted to less than 1 percent of the total 18,500 users. The high-usage customers used about 3.9 million gallons a month, which was about 4 percent of the 93.4 million gallons that residential customers use in an average month.
Although the high usage customers' figures are impressive, those customers pay for the privilege. Both Prescott and Prescott Valley have developed tiered rate structures in which those who use the greatest amounts of water pay more for the privilege. Also, both communities offer other incentives to encourage water conservation through the building code.
Tucker said Prescott's top water user at 595,855 gallons a year would pay about $492 per month with the use spread evenly over 12 months. Prescott Valley's top user at 552,000 gallons a year would pay about $159 a month.
Although conservation measures may not have dissuaded the top users, both communities have seen the water use per capita per day in their communities decline since 2000. Water use peaked in 2003 for Prescott and 2002 in Prescott Valley, but since 2000, Prescott water use has dropped 11.3 percent and in Prescott Valley it declined 16 percent.
In the big picture, water users are showing respect for the scarcity of the resource.