Water conservation makes sense and saves cents

This article is the second part of a series about water conservation. While the first article concentrated on the importance of water conservation in general, this report specifically focuses on Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. We discuss why water conservation is important and the large and small impact that not conserving water can have on our personal and community budgets. And, of course, as we are all aware, anything that affects the community budget also takes a chunk out of our personal budget.

Home water conservation alleviates pressure on water supplies and offers additional benefits such as reduced water bills, diminished wastewater treatment expenses for communities, and the preservation of aquatic ecosystems.

Water—we can’t survive without it

Water is fundamental to sustaining human life and is one of our most abundant yet precious natural resources. It constitutes roughly 60% of the human body’s weight, and its absence would quickly lead to human demise. Despite its abundance, the quantity of water in our environment remains static, circulating through various locations and forms.

Is Hot Springs Village vulnerable to drought?

Arkansas boasts significant surface and groundwater reservoirs yet remains vulnerable to drought. In 2005, the southwestern part of the state faced a severe drought, with precipitation deficits averaging nearly 14 inches, placing immense strain on public water sources.

Arkansas’s worst drought of the twentieth century occurred in 1930–1931. Twenty-three states were affected across the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys and mid-Atlantic regions.

Ken Unger, HSVPOA Public Services Director, says that if we instinctively conserve, we might be able to survive under drought conditions.

If we have a deal to access Lake Ouachita water, why is there a need to conserve water?

For the past seven years, the POA has been paying $40,000 a year for rights to two million gallons of water per day from Lake Ouachita. We have 13 years remaining to pay off the loan. We are not connected to this system and cannot access this water if needed in an emergency. Running the pipe to connect would cost $150 million, so this is not a viable option for a water source.

Unger said, “I hope to negotiate a three-way lease between Hot Springs, North Garland County, and the Village where we lease or sell these rights to one of the above parties, possibly in exchange for wholesale rates in an emergency or to offset our ongoing costs. Unfortunately, North Garland County can’t supply us with water at this time, so offsetting our ongoing costs is probably the best we will get.”

This connectivity arrangement for $40,000 a year was executed under a previous POA administration, around approximately 2017.

Pumping Water out of the Middle Fork of the Saline River – How does that work?

Pumps are located on the Middle Fork of the Saline River on village-owned property near the Cortez golf course. These pumps only move water for storage into Lake Lago during high-flow periods. Hot Springs Village has valid riparian rights to water in the Middle Fork due to its ownership of property on the river.

We have a limited supply at Lake Lago. Based on current usage, we have only a one-year supply of water. “The supply could last longer if we could learn how to conserve water,” stated Unger.

Unger said, “There is a holistic approach here to water.” Comments are made that we have an abundant water supply and there is no reason to practice water conservation. “Our water comes from the North Fork of the Saline River. We are allowed to pump water when water levels reach certain levels. The water must overflow the dam where our pumps are located. We cannot pump the dam if the water does not overflow. We have the ability to pump 14 million gallons per day, which is more than enough to supply what we need, and right now, we are pumping to fill up Lake Lago. We generally pump from about November or December to April.”

Although the water itself is free, the cost of pumping is not. Pumping uses electricity, and there is also an associated maintenance cost on the pumps and lines. Treating the water for public consumption involves chemicals, equipment, staff, and more costs. The more water we use, the more it costs the community.

Water crisis caused by recent tornado

Water conservation became necessary after the recent tornado.

Thursday, March 14, a tornado caused many issues in the village water system, including a loss of electricity at the water plant. An undersized generator could not compensate for leaks throughout the system that caused the water tanks to drain. For a short time, until Public Services could address and solve the issues, villagers were asked to conserve water usage.

Speaking on the water issues caused by the tornado, Unger said, “This just goes back to the whole story on water conservation. People say, ‘We have plenty of water. We don’t need to conserve.’ When we have an event such as the recent tornado, if villagers operated more conservatively, I probably would not have had to ask people to please conserve. This is a great example of why conservation is a smart strategy, period.”

What if we need to upgrade the water plant again?

The water treatment plant was updated in 2014 from a capacity of 4 million gallons daily to 6 million gallons daily. What would it cost for an additional upgrade?*

Over 50% of the Water Plant Capital Improvements Plan is in one item: a water plant upgrade. The need for a water plant upgrade is completely driven by consumption. Unger said his push to discuss reasonable water conservation is because of the $15.5 million cost to upgrade the plant.

Unger said that he wants our Lake Lago supply to last as long as possible, which is determined by our usage. “We can put restrictions in place, but I hope people will change their water usage behavior to delay some water plant upgrades. Water usage, especially from unabated irrigation, could drive the necessity for a plant upgrade, costing us $15 million.

“It is better to start changing our behavior now than when we reach the trigger of 80% to 90% capacity on the water plant and have to spend millions to upgrade the system,” said Unger.

Board Member Larry Siener, the Public Services Committee Liaison, voiced, “So the longer we can kick that particular can down the road, the better off we are.”

Unger would also like to delay a water plant upgrade for as long as possible. Delaying another water plant upgrade only makes sense and saves cents. The $15 million plant upgrade cost is reason enough to conserve.

Should we blatantly use water because it is cheap?

Unger questioned, “Should we be in a community where we are blatantly using water because it is cheap and we have an ample supply? If something happens, do we want one year’s worth of water supply, a year and a half, or two years’ worth of supply until whatever happens is resolved?”

In conclusion, there are many reasons why we should conserve water in Hot Springs Village, and not doing so can have a negative impact on our personal pocketbook and the community as a whole. Water conservation makes sense and saves cents. Stay tuned for water-conserving tips in the next article.

Click here to read part one of the series, “Why is water conservation important?”

Why is water conservation in Hot Springs Village important 2

*Click here for more in-depth information on water system challenges and suggested improvements.

By Cheryl Dowden


Ken Unger
Director Public Services
Hot Springs Village

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