GAINESVILLE — Officials in Gainesville’s public utilities department are keeping a close watch on the city’s water use.
Every day, Stephen Douglas, superintendent of Gainesville’s water operations, monitors the amount of water the city pumps to the Lakeside and Riverside Water Treatment Facilities. It’s an important job that is increasingly imperative as the city strives to meet a state-mandated reduction in water consumption.
The magic mandated number is 15.82 million gallons per day, on average, and Gainesville officials have started pulling out the stops to keep the city from draining any more than that.
So far, Gainesville’s average water use for the month is 1.6 million gallons per day less than last November.
"We’re getting pretty dang close," Kelly Randall, director of Gainesville’s public utility, said of reaching the target.
As of Tuesday, Gainesville’s average water use for November was 16.19 million gallons per day— nearly 2 million gallons per day less than the average daily use last month— but the city still has to cut consumption to meet the governor’s mandated 10 percent reduction by the end of the month.
City officials are unclear of what the consequences of exceeding the consumption target may be, but Randall said the state will send a letter and meet with permit-holders that have not met the mandated reduction for an explanation of why the target was not met.
"They can fine us," Randall said. "Since this is a new thing, I don’t know how big a fine they will assess."
Randall said the fine assessment will be up to the state’s Environmental Protection Division.
"I hope they will consider a community that is doing its due diligence, trying its best to get down there in their consideration of what sort of fines they may assess," Randall said. "I’m still hoping we’ll get there."
The city has enacted a number of drought response initiatives to meet the governor’s mandate. Some of those initiatives, such as changing the allowed watering period for new landscape installations and limiting the washing of city vehicles, have had an immediate impact on the city’s water use.
Others, such as monitoring the use of commercial car washes that do not recycle water and stepping up the Water Conservation Program, will take more time to show results.
"I think we’re showing a pretty good-faith effort to try and meet the number," Randall said.
Still, Monday’s water use spiked to 18.57 million gallons, the most water the city has consumed in one day since Oct. 17, according to the data.
Douglas said sometimes public utilities staff has to manage the water tanks to keep water quality at its best, and water use could be affected when the department is filling and draining those tanks. He said the tanks are managed based on customer demand, and there is no certain time they are filled or drained.
"It’s not something that is that precise," Douglas said.
The spike was definitely not a result of any leaks in the city’s lines, Douglas said.
The two highest days of usage this month have been on Mondays, but Douglas said there is no concrete explanation for the Monday spikes.
"It may be just in how our customers use water, our industries use water," Douglas said. "People are going back to work ... there may be more showers."
Douglas said it is better to look at the city’s average water use than its daily ups and downs, because water use varies.
"It’s kind of like the stock market," Douglas said. "It doesn’t pay to look at it day-to-day; it does better to do an average."
Monday’s spike in consumption, though disheartening to Douglas, still managed to be 7.3 million gallons less than Gainesville’s maximum day of consumption in November 2006.
"I think the state’s goal is to get everybody to reduce our usage, and I think we’re doing that," Douglas said.