‘Beat the Peak’ watering policy explained by FUD

First Utility District staff have been hard at work communicating the purpose of their new “Beat the Peak” alternate day watering policy, avoiding unnecessary and costly system upgrades.

Communications went out last fall and earlier this year regarding the policy, and staff is continuing to field any and all questions about it.

“Over the past seven months since FUD first announced our alternate day irrigation policy, we have received roughly 30 calls,” Chloe Pool, FUD communication manager, said. “That’s a really good number considering we have approximately 10,000 irrigation units in our district.

“Nearly all of the calls we received were customers concerned about a water shortage or other concerns we addressed in our videos and e-mails. We’re happy to take those calls because we always want to ensure customers are taking advantage of our e-mail notifications, know how to follow us on social media, and overall communications efforts.”

Officials noted “there is no shortage of water” and its pipes and system is more than adequate to provide continuous services. FUD’s “Beat the Peak” initiative only impacts in-ground irrigation system customers, asking them to water only during specific times and days based on their house numbers.

“In the past, the majority of our irrigation customers water every other day on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday schedule,” said Seth Fischer, FUD PE. “We simply want half of irrigation systems to switch to Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and for all to be off by 5 a.m. or on after 7 a.m. to avoid overlapping the domestic use peak.”

Mondays are prohibited outright for tank recovery, as is any day between 5 and 7 a.m. Addresses ending in even numbers can use their water irrigation systems Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays, while odd numbers may water Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Without a specific program in place, “showering and irrigation often happen concurrently between 5 and 7 a.m. … creating a peak water usage of six times the average for two hours during summer mornings a few days a week — most notably Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” an FUD press release stated. “Any other time of day or season of the year, our pipes are more than enough for the water demand.”

“Our distribution system is more than enough except for these peaks hours in which people get ready for work and irrigate at the same time,” Fischer said. “Upgrades just to cover this time frame would cost tens of millions of dollars to our district and disrupt traffic/yards/neighborhoods.

“During most times of day and seasons the larger pipes would far exceed our district’s needs,” he added.

“The bottom line is there is no shortage of water, and the only goal of this policy is to be fiscally conservative, save millions of dollars, and keep our rates among the lowest in Tennessee. We have actually received more rain than normal in the last few years, and we have millions of gallons of excess capacity in our water supply and at our water treatment plant.”

Looking ahead, FUD is “being proactive, and the potential issue that is still several years down the road is transporting that water through existing pipes to the farthest points in our system,” Fischer said.  

“If successful, we will also have sufficient capacity in our pipes for many years to come, and most pipes will never have to be upgraded to a larger size,” he added. “The alternative is to spend millions of dollars, disrupt traffic, and dig up roads and yards, just to have pipes that are too big 98 percent of the time.”

“Over 30 percent of our customers have irrigation systems,” FUD general manager Bruce Giles said, adding when they are activated, “it creates some challenges that are unique to our distribution system.”

“While we have plenty of capacity at the water plant to provide for this need, during the couple hours each day that these irrigation systems are activated, it creates some challenges that are unique to our distribution system. 

“A common sense approach is to simply change the demand patterns instead of spend millions of dollars upsizing piping for a very small timeframe.  This, in turn, has a positive impact on our customers rates while meeting their irrigation needs during the summer months. 

“It’s a win/win for everyone.”

The new policy does not apply to those who water outdoors using hoses or sprinklers.

For more information, or to answer specific questions, email beatthepeak@fudknox.org or visit http://fudknox.org/learn-more-about-beat-the-peak/