New watering schedule keeps FUD rates low

Wendy SmithFarragut, West Knox County

We’re all about personal choice in this part of Tennessee. But when we have to choose between freedom and paying more for services, we tend to favor our wallets. That’s why the majority of First Utility customers have opted to adhere to a new watering schedule that will keep water costs down in the coming years.

FUD’s Beat the Peak campaign is primarily aimed at customers with irrigation systems. Out of 40,000 customers in the utility district’s service area (a large portion of southwest Knox County) approximately 10,000 have sprinkler systems, says Seth Fischer, FUD project engineer. Previously, during peak summer heat, many of those sprinklers were running first thing in the morning – at the same time that customers were getting ready for work. And that was taxing the system. It wasn’t a problem with the water supply, Fischer says, but a problem with a temporary surge in demand.

It left FUD with two possible solutions – institute a watering schedule or spend millions to increase infrastructure. A year-round watering ordinance, approved by FUD’s Board of Commissioners, specifies that street addresses ending with even numbers water only on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and addresses ending with odd numbers water only on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The ordinance also states that no one should water from 5-7 a.m. on any day.

Fortunately for all of us in West Knoxville, enough customers have adhered to the new schedule that an expensive system overhaul won’t be necessary in the short run. Approximately two-thirds of customers have complied, Fischer says. Last summer’s peak flow rate was 65 million gallons per day, and with the schedule in place, peak flow is down to a rate of 35 million gallons per day.

“We’re blown away by participation so far. We’ve bought decades by cutting down on peak flow. I hope it will be even better next summer.”

Chloe Pool, communications manager for FUD, used every method in her arsenal to get the word out about the new watering schedule. Most have been positive about the change, she says.

FUD is willing to work with customers who have special circumstances. There are exemptions for new seed or sod, ball fields with scheduled events, and greenhouses. The every-other-day policy does not apply to hand watering with a hose or watering can, and sprinklers can run in the evening any day.

While this year has mostly been about educating customers, the ordinance will be enforced next year. FUD staff will have three “discussions” with those who don’t comply before water service is cut off.

“I hope it doesn’t get to that, and I don’t expect it will,” says Fischer.

Pool recommends that customers follow FUD on social media so they can stay informed about outages and get to know the staff. There are also pics of the newest team member, Elmer FUD, a yellow lab pup that will eventually be trained to detect chlorine, allowing him to locate leaks. Right now, he’s busy just being cute and visiting all the FUD facilities.

She also encourages customers to reach out if they have questions about their service. An FAQ section on the FUD website is a good place to start. Hats off to FUD for keeping rates low in Farragut and beyond!

Town of Farragut marketing and public relations coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.

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