Municipal irrigation water demand (defined as non-agricultural irrigation demand) presents a host of challenges to water systems. The seasonal nature of this demand drives significant peaks in summertime water use. Because of these peaks, water systems must invest in costly resource and treatment capacity expansion. Moreover, irrigation demand is almost nonexistent in the winter months and contributes very little to baseline demand and revenue.
In the summer of 2008, the North Carolina General Assembly passed S.L. 2008-143 (the 2008 Drought Bill), requiring water systems operated by local governments and large community water systems to take certain measures in order to better prepare for and manage drought conditions. One such requirement was that “Local government water systems and large community water systems shall require separate meters for new in-ground irrigation systems that are connected to their systems.” This requirement went into effect July 1, 2009. It provides water systems an opportunity to monitor and plan for municipal irrigation water use.
Although the requirement will help local governments monitor and measure irrigation water use, there are other management and financial implications of this requirement that have yet to be fully explored. Our research sought to address some of those implications by comparing the irrigation practices, policies and pricing of twelve of North Carolina’s largest utilities, those in the Urban Water Consortium. The analysis shed light on what utility managers across the country should consider before or while installing irrigation meters for their residential customers.
Interruptible Irrigation Rates: A Feasibility Study (2012; pdf)
This EFC report explores the feasibility of an innovative business model for water utilities made possible with a smart water grid: interruptible irrigation rates. Overall, the "business case" for an interruptible irrigation rates program by a water utility is mixed and highly dependent on the structure of a utility and its customer base. Using a synthesis of interviews, research, data analysis, and program simulations, the report provides discussion, suggestions and recommendations for the implementation of an interruptible irrigation rates program.
Peer-reviewed Journal AWWA article, Dec 2011, 103:12, 30-41: Implications of Residential Irrigation Metering for Customers' Expenditures and Demand (link to article on external website) - An in depth exploration of the effects of metering residential irrigation separately and what utilities should consider in setting policies and strategies regarding irrigation meters. Promoting the installation of irrigation meters to encourage conservation may inadvertently provide incentives to increase irrigation water use.
Utility Brief on Residential Irrigation (2009, pdf) - 4 page brief for utility managers exploring current prevalence, characteristics and revenue implications of residential irrigation.
The following fact sheets and presentation explore them in more detail (2010, all pdfs)
Funding for this research was provided by the NC Urban Water Consortium. For more information on this research, please contact Mary Tiger.
In North Carolina (webpage) - Part of the annual NCLM-EFC Water and Wastewater Rates Survey, we compile data tables of residential irrigation rates for over 450 NC utilities and summarize them in a short report.
In Georgia (webpage) - Part of the annual GEFA-EFC Water and Wastewater Rates Survey, we compile data tables of residential irrigation rates for over 450 GA utilities and summarize them in a short report.
Funding for this research was provided by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources and by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. For more information on this research, please contact Shadi Eskaf.
EFC webinar on Irrigation Metering Requirements and Drought Legislation in NC (2009, recording)
2008 Drought Legislation Overview Presentation (2009, pdf)
Erin Wynia, NC League of Municipalities
Financial Planning for Residential Irrigation (2009, pdf)
Shadi Eskaf & Andrew Westbrook, EFC
Irrigation Meters in Winston-Salem (2009, pdf)
Ron Hargrove, Winston-Salem & Forsyth County City/County Utilities
NC League of Municipalities: Drought Legisation Implementation Information Guide (2009, pdf)