Over at streets.mn, I ask some questions about the Met Council’s new northeast metro water supply plan. Here is a big one:
Where is the conservation alternative? The cost and feasibility of reducing water use are not analyzed as part of the report. Building nothing and simply asking/incentivizing/requiring people to use less may be the cheapest option. According to the report, water use in 2010 was 92 gallons per person, per day in these communities. The ratio of peak day demand to average day demand ranges from 1.7:1 in Forest Lake to 5.9:1 in Lexington. The report hints that this is “mainly attributed to irrigation and outdoor water use needs”. Sprinkling lawns in other words. Many options exist for conserving (potable) water – from retrofitting toilets, sinks and showers, to using captured rainwater to irrigate, to simply paying people to remove lawns and replacing them with low-water alternatives. For the cost of the alternatives to serve all northeast communities with new water supply (~$600 million), you could pay every household over $1,400 to remove lawn, and keep paying them $40 every year after that. Without an analysis of conservation alternatives, this report seems inadequate.