Fort Worth residents have taken to heart the plea from leaders to voluntarily conserve water, including mandated restrictions on outdoor watering because of drought.
They’ve done so well, in fact, that water usage has dropped 26 percent per resident since 1999.
But the successful conservation efforts pose a dilemma in that less water use, along with the rising costs to the city for purchasing raw water, will force an increase in water rates for customers.
And now the Fort Worth City Council is poised to make permanent the twice-a-week landscape watering restrictions, which on top of everything else could appear to be punishing residents rather than rewarding them for their efforts.
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The fact that a vote on making restrictions permanent will come April 1 may seen like a crude April Fool’s joke if city leaders do not clearly explain to the public the dynamics of water supply, delivery and usage, as well as the impact conservation has on keeping rates as low as possible.
Members of the the council, during a meeting Tuesday, seemed acutely aware that they have a tough job ahead to help residents understand that even though they conserve, rates must rise. What water users must also understand is that if they don’t conserve, those rates will increase even more.
“We have to be really honest with our citizens,” Councilman Danny Scarth said.
Councilman Jungus Jordan noted that as the city asks residents to tighten their belts, the city should do the same.
But the important factor is that somehow city officials must communicate the message to water customers that there is a limited water supply at the same time there is a growing demand from increased population.
Officials must also explain that the cost to the city to buy and deliver water will continue to increase, and that it was conservation efforts that have allowed the city to delay some expensive water plant and other expansion projects, thus keeping the cost as low as possible for residents.
This information must be delivered in an effective way, meaning by methods other than postcard-size notices in water bills.