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For the week of Feb. 16 through Feb. 22, 2000

Water gluttons

Hailey plans meters, irrigation restrictions

Express Staff Writer

With the summer season just a few months around the corner—a time of year when Hailey, per capita, uses up to five times as much water as the rest of the country—city planners are looking at ways of stemming the flow. Otherwise, they perceive that a significant cash outlay may be needed to provide for the city’s seemingly quenchable thirst.

Monday night, elected officials unanimously adopted a water master plan that proposes, among other things, to conserve water through the installation of meters at individual residences.

"The good news is that Hailey has plenty of water—the bad news is that Hailey doesn’t have enough water," Mayor Brad Siemer said.

The cost to the city could be more than just monetary.

With Hailey’s water stores dwindling to dangerously low numbers each summer, city engineer Tom Hellen calls the resulting reduced fire fighting capability "risky" at best.

Consequently, residents are looking at footing the bill for a new $1.2 million water storage tank and a new metering system, both of which would likely be funded through a bond initiative.

Hellen called the transition to a metering system the most important issue the city faces concerning its water supply. The new system, he said, would mean a "cost saving to the city and, ultimately, to the customers."
By charging a rate for water use and by educating residents on frugal water practices, Hellen said the city could delay the need for drilling a new $500,000 well and provide for a more equitable distribution of costs based on water use.

According to the plan, Hailey currently uses a peak 309 gallons per person per day in winter; and a peak 1,472 gallons per person per day in summer. Annual use averages 482 gallons per person per day.

This yearly average compares to a national average of 180 gallons and a state average of 324 gallons, according to the plan.

Hellen claims that historical results from other western cities switching to a metered system show an immediate reduction in water use of 20 to 30 percent.

Of course a reduction can only happen if residents know what to do to curb use.

Water department supervisor Ray Hyde proposed conducting a public service campaign that would promote the use of water-conserving fixtures, such as shower heads, and teach grade school students about water conservation—information he suggested the students would take home to their parents.

This summer, Hyde plans to install test meters at 100 homes in Hailey. He intends to inform half the homeowners of the new meters and encourage them to conserve. The other half he plans to not inform. Any difference in consumption between the two groups will show whether metering affects the amount of water people use, Hyde said.

In a related matter, council members and city staff discussed imposing irrigation limits this summer, a move that, like metering, is motivated by excessive demand leading to reduced fire-fighting flow.


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