Heavy rainfall drying up CU’s water sales
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
May 24, 2013 | 1255 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Heavy January and April showers — and lots of them — followed by a wet May are putting a serious kink in Cleveland Utilities’ water sales so far in 2013.

In separate reports Thursday, two CU division vice presidents told Cleveland Board of Public Utilities members when rainfall is way up, CU water sales are traditionally way down.

Ken Webb, CU senior vice president and chief financial officer, pointed out April’s water sales volume was 9.6 percent less than the same month a year ago. Likewise, irrigation volume was down 20 percent.

“This obviously was the result of the high amount of rainfall experienced so far this spring and the reduced demand for water,” Webb told board members during a formal monthly session in the Tom Wheeler Training Center. “Irrigation volume (this does not include irrigation usage on home meters) was less than 20 percent of what it was last April.”

Year-to-date, water sales volume is running about 97 percent of the volume at this time last year. A more detailed analysis of Water Division sales for April and YTD will be included in an article in a future edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner. The information will be based from Webb’s full financial report for the month of April.

“May and June are typically months when the demand for water begins its upward track during the year so it is hopeful we will see this take place,” Webb advised. “However, if the rainfall continues at the pace we have seen recently we will not see the usual increase in irrigation sales that we normally see this time of year.”

Webb offered a reminder to board members that he has voiced before, and one that community residents — and CU customers — often take for granted, “The weather is a driving factor in our sales volume.”

That includes the Water, Electric and Wastewater divisions.

In a separate but similar update, CU Water Division Vice President Craig T. Mullinax also fingered the culprit responsible for Webb’s low water sales financials: heavier-than-normal rainfall.

In less than five months (January through May 21, 2013), the clouds above the Cleveland Utilities service territory have pelted residents with 35.85 inches of rain. This compares to 48.03 inches for the entire year of 2010, 71.61 inches in 2011 and 49.85 inches in 2012.

For this time of year, the Cleveland area will normally receive about 24.30 inches of rain (compared to 35.85 so far in 2013), according to numbers on Mullinax’s rainfall chart. Cleveland’s average rainfall in a year’s time is about 53.78 inches.

At this rate, if the trend doesn’t change, Cleveland’s projected rainfall for 2013 could hit 86.04 inches. Mullinax called this amount “a projected departure from normal” of some 32.26 inches.

Currently, Cleveland’s 2013 precipitation level is on track to saturate 2003 which, in its first five months, had recorded rainfall totals of 34.14 inches.

“[We are] at the highest of this period [in rainfall],” Mullinax said, referring to his rainfall chart that dated back to 1996. He said at present the 2013 totals are exceeding the 2003 deluge.

“It (rainfall) has impacted our irrigation sales,” the Water Division leader stressed. Although the longtime CU administrator stopped short of wishing for a drought, he did “hope” for drier weather to give customers more reason to drag out their water hoses.

He agreed with Webb’s assessment about the connection between weather and utility sales. Dry conditions outside are good for CU’s water business. However, wet conditions will dry up water sales. In the Electric Division, summer heat means more homes will be dropping the HVAC thermostat, and this translates into higher electricity sales.

Based on historic trends, Cleveland — and most of the Southeast Tennesssee region — is heading into its dry season; that is, the months of June, July and August. If this pattern continues, CU water sales should pick up. If not, the local utility’s budget will feel the crunch, according to both Webb and Mullinax.

In other developments Thursday, the utility board:

- Approved a purchase order with Synagro South LLC in the amount of $48,232.80 for the processing of an additional 174 dry tons (maximum) of biosolids from the Wastewater Treatment Plant lagoons.

- Approved a change order (the third and final) with W&O Construction in the amount of $5,130 for repairing a damaged electrical conduit in the concrete floor of the centrifuge building and additional labor costs due to the delay in construction. The contract amount increases from $795,161 to $800,291. This also includes an increase in the substantial completion date by 88 days to 260 days.

- Approved two purchase orders with Temple Inc. in the amount of $60,600 (FY 2013 billing) and $60,000 (FY 2014 billing) for the purchase of GPS Preemption Equipment for 20 traffic light intersections and 10 vehicles. The cost to purchase and install will be charged to the traffic light investment account, as approved by Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel.

- Approved the purchase of chlorine from DPC Enterprises in the amount of $64,373.50. Chlorine will be used as a disinfectant at the Cleveland Filter Plant, Waterville Springs, Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Hiwassee Utilities Commission plant.

- Approved the purchase of Sulfur Dioxide from DPC Enterprises in the amount of $46,665. Sulfur Dioxide is used to neutralize chlorine at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

- The utility board’s next scheduled formal session is set for Thursday, June 27, at 3 p.m. in the Tom Wheeler Training Center.