TDEC Urges Voluntary Water Conservation Measures
Maintaining Adequate Water Supply is an Issue of Both Supply and Demand
NASHVILLE – As hot, dry conditions continue across the state, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is asking communities to be mindful of their water-usage practices and to adhere to any voluntary or mandatory water conservation requests made by local utility districts. Private water well users also are encouraged to conserve water and have a plan of action in place as drought conditions persist.
“While most parts of the state have adequate water supplies at this time, there are areas that are experiencing strains on their water systems, and we need to be thinking about the months ahead,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “Regardless, when a utility is working to meet the demands of its customers, both supply and demand are part of the equation. That's why voluntary measures to conserve water where possible are so important.”
Above average temperatures this spring and summer, coupled with insufficient rainfall, have placed a burden on water supplies in several areas of the state. Area reservoirs are at historic lows and the potential for significant rainfall re-charge events in the near future is minimal.
“Currently, there are nearly 40 public water systems in Tennessee that have experienced issues ranging from declining water sources to water demand exceeding the capacity of treatment plants, distribution pipes and/or pump systems,” added Martineau. “When water utilities ask their customers to conserve, we urge people to respond accordingly.”
Some water systems also have experienced issues with taste and odor. Taste and odor issues are generally worse in those areas where stream flow has diminished and source water is collected closer to the bottom of the stream, or where algae is imparting a taste and odor to the water. Taste and odor issues in water from public water systems are aesthetic in nature, and do not pose a safety or health risk.
Water conservation measures can also play a key role in maintaining the health of Tennessee’s streams and aquatic life. Although secondary to the public’s water supplies, protecting the state’s watersheds through conservation efforts will ensure they can also recover quickly from the impacts of a drought.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Environment and Conservation are working with other local, state and federal agencies to track Tennessee’s water needs and provide support where necessary.
The first point of contact for any Tennessean experiencing problems accessing water for critical needs is the appropriate local emergency management agency, which then coordinates with TEMA when additional support is required. The contact information for each county’s emergency management agency can be found on TEMA’s website at www.tnema.org.
As drought conditions continue, voluntary conservation measures will become even more critical. Just cutting back on typical warm weather activities such as watering lawns and plants, filling swimming pools and washing cars can make a difference.
Voluntary efforts exercised at this stage of the threat may prevent the need to mandate water-conservation practices in the near future. There are simple things Tennesseans can do to conserve water, including:
- Avoid washing your car at home with a hose – seek out waterless car washes or commercial car wash systems that recycle water
- Take shorter showers
- Fix all leaky plumbing fixtures, including outdoor hoses
- Install sink faucets with aerators, motion sensors, or automatic shut-offs
- Install low-flow shower heads
- Run washing machines and dishwashers only with full loads
- Install low-flush toilets, or put a one-liter water bottle in the toilet tank
- Buy appliances with water conservation features
- Avoid watering lawns. If you do, water lawns and gardens sparingly in the morning or evening to prevent excessive evaporation
- Landscape with native plants, shrubs and trees – they are adapted to periods of drought and may require less water than non-native ornamentals
- Minimize use of kitchen sink garbage disposal units
- Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants
- Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks
TEMA, the Department of Environment and Conservation and other state and federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the National Weather Service, TVA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts are part of a drought task force that provides a formal mechanism for agencies to track issues and solutions related to the drought.
For more information about water conservation tips and efforts, please visit TDEC’s website at www.tn.gov/environment/dws/droughtplanning/.