This paper illustrates the long-term planning challenge for water utilities in the age of conservation using detailed operating data of three sampling entities from the mid 1990s to 2009. The induced behavioral change from conservation measures is found to be of a permanent nature and the unit consumption to be in long-term descent. This in turn may call for a paradigm change in pricing and capacity planning for utilities. The ever-declining per capita consumption alters many commonly acknowledged norms for utilities, in particular for fast growing ones that may have taken on additional financial leverage to support previously anticipated growth. If not managed properly, the full cost recovery mechanism of pricing may force those utilities into an unsustainable future of ever-decreasing total demand and ever-increasing cash flow shortfall. Collection of more detailed water demand data in a timely fashion may prove to be a necessary exercise for sound management of median to large water utilities.

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