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Water sales down in 2013

WORTHINGTON — It isn’t often a company encourages customers to use less of its product, but that’s exactly the case for Worthington Public Utilities (WPU).

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According to General Manager Scott Hain, customers of WPU used less water in 2013 than they did in 2012.

“Overall, our revenue is down for the year, but so were expenses,” Hain said. “Certainly, it’s not a cause for concern for us that we lose those sales. I’d much rather have it that way than running out of water. We’re kind of in that situation where it’s interesting because you’re encouraging people to use less of the product that you’re selling.”

The usage of less water can be explained, in part, by the fact Worthington was under a non-essential watering ban for eight out of the 12 months.

“Do I think it helped on the front end of the year? With an almost 9 percent decrease in residential water use, I think it had an impact,” Hain said.

“As we talked about before, there were a lot of folks in that April, May, June time frame that got into the habit of putting out some rain barrels or carrying water from dehumidifiers,” he continued. “I think a lot of them continued to do that through the rest of the summer because they had gotten used to it.”

In total, 22.1 percent less water was taken from the Lake Bella well field, which equals about 243 million gallons.

“A good share of that was made up with purchases from LPRW (Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water),” Hain said. “We purchased about 198 million gallons from them. Overall, our total source water was down.”

Total water sales decreased about 6.5 percent overall. Residential use was down 8.9 percent, commercial down 6.9 percent and industrial down 5.3 percent. In total, 50 million less gallons were used in Worthington.

There was other water usage this past year, however.

“There is some water that is used in treatment and flushing,” Hain said. “We had not flushed hydrants for a couple years because of water shortage. We didn’t do it at all in 2012 because we were going into a nasty period.

“Typically we’ll go out and flush those twice a year, and we hadn’t done it all. We got to last fall and we said, ‘It’s a maintenance issue, and we need to get these things flushed.”’

Selling less product isn’t a concern, though, for Hain.

“From a water standpoint, our main focus is protecting that resource and making the water stretch as far as we could,” he said. “If that leads to reduced consumption and reduced sales, it does.

“There are some off-setting savings in expenses associated with not having to pump and produce as much water. Is it dollar for dollar? No. But it’s certainly not a cause for concern at this point in time.”

Even with the watering ban, the well levels are still below average.

“I’m pleased to see -- as much as you can be pleased -- to see what appeared to be a response to our water shortage issues with the reductions across the board,” Hain said.

Well 26 was at 35 feet, 4 inches last week, which is 6 feet, 6 inches below the 16-year avearge. However, it is still 3 feet better than a year ago.

On the electric side of things, the overall usage decreased.

“Electric was a fairly typical year,” Hain said. “We purchased about six-tenths less power than what we did a year ago. Our residential sales were up about a half of a percent. Commercial sales were down about eight-tenths of a percent. Industrial were down about 4.6 percent.”

One of the biggest reasons for the large decreases in industrial was last April’s ice storm.

“We definitely saw the impact on reduced sales due to the ice storm, particularly on the larger businesses that lost production days and they actually had to shut down,” Hain said. “The fact we were running on local generation and we were doing rolling blackouts, they couldn’t function like that.”

Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.