Mason County News
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City Corner
Wednesday, August 31, 2011 • Posted August 31, 2011

The hot and dry weather continues and most everyone I know around town is praying for rain and looking for cooler temperatures, even if they have to pay the electric costs to keep it cool. Our City wholesale power bill has been going up over 10% each month this summer, and the next set of bills are no exception. In addition, recently we have been getting regular emails indicating the electric grid is nearly overwhelmed by the current demand. The warnings we published a couple of weeks ago about rolling black-outs are coming true, and if the citizens of Texas do not take measures to reduce power consumption then we may have black-outs here in Mason as well as throughout the big cities. Conservation of our resources has been a headline for many years, but this summer it has really hit home with the need to conserve the water and power we take for granted every day in our own homes. The water situation here in Mason has not been as critical as in some of the other communities of rural Texas. However, I have recently seen new analysis that indicates La Nina will redevelop during the fall and this summer’s devastating drought may continue for many months to come. The Texas State Climatologist, John Nielson-Gammon, has been quoted as saying “I’ve started telling anyone who’s interested that it’s likely much of Texas will still be in severe drought this time next summer, with water supply implications even worse than we are now experiencing.” In Mason we have recently measured the test well we monitor for determining the level of the local water table, and it has shown a drop in the static water level of four feet since the beginning of summer. If this trend continues, we may have to take further restrictive water conservation measures. We understand that many people are hand watering trees and basic landscaping groups, but excessive sprinkling of green lawn grass is becoming a detriment to the stability of the water supply for everyone. We are still restricting landscape watering to once a week between the hours of 7:00 pm and 9:00 am, and our city employees are turning off water beyond these hours when they encounter problems. Our records indicate we are again pumping in excess of 30 million gallons a month for our community’s use, and we need everyone’s cooperation if we are to avoid significant water issues and deprivation in the future. The City Commission took steps at last week’s meeting to move forward with one step that will help us identify wastage and water problems electronically in the near future. We approved the negotiations to proceed to change all of the water meters in Mason to an electronic reading unit that will provide a much easier method of monthly meter reading and record data about usage and possible leakage at individual locations. The monthly meter reading for the entire city can be accomplished by one person with a laptop in about two hours, instead of the current method of using 10 city employees for two days to travel throughout town to look at each meter. In addition, we have conducted a pilot program for the past several months and have replaced more than 25 individual meters, and upon testing the old meters realized that they were under-recording the actual usage by over 30%. With the new meters we can accurately bill each water account properly, do it with less labor, and provide accurate recorded usage for the past weeks or months if a question arises with an individual account. This new metering system will take about three months to fully implement, and will only monitor water usage at this time. We expect it to significantly add to our efficiency and productivity in the water department, and we anticipate a rapid return on the investment in both more accurate billing for water usage and better capability of answering customers concerns and questions. The City Commission is committed to doing everything possible to improve our community and provide the best and most up-to-date services for our citizens.One article I recently read talked about the complexity of water issues and how it is unknowingly used every day. If we expect to truly conserve water we must understand that “we live very wet lives….The way we handle water insulates us not just from its wonders, but from any sense of how much water daily life requires.” One surprising fact it mentions is that “U.S. electric utilities require several times more water than all U.S. homes. They use 1.5 time the amount of water used by all the farms in the country. In fact 49 percent of all water use in the United States is for power plants.” I will share more about water usage that was in this article by Charles Fishman next week, but for now just think how interdependent conserving electricity and water really are. In this time of extreme heat and dry weather, it becomes critical for every citizen to do all that you can to reduce any excess use of power or water. Mason is a great community and if we want this to be a hometown that future generations can enjoy, we each will need to do a few things smarter to live wisely in our town now.

Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley

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