Record-Breaking Water Sales Validate NWA's Higher Population

Northwest Arkansas’ largest drinking water supplier broke its record for sales in Fiscal Year 2017, and the two-county area’s other primary water provider will approach an all-time sales record.

Both the Beaver Water District and the Benton/Washington Regional Public Water Authority delivered more water to their customers even though summer temperatures were below average. Those record sales in a year with cooler-than-normal summer weather indicates the region’s rising population is driving increased water consumption, said Larry Lloyd, the Beaver Water District’s chief operating officer.

The Beaver Water District’s four customers — the cities of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale — consumed an average of 51 million gallons a day in Fiscal Year 2017, which ended Sept. 30. That was up from 48.1 million in FY2016. This year’s water sales of 18.6 billion gallons eclipsed the record sales in 2016 by 6.06 percent.

The Northwest Arkansas Council gathered water consumption data from the two providers because it’s a way to validate the rapid growth in population that’s estimated each year by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We just keep selling more and more water, and it’s not because it’s hot and dry,” Lloyd said. “None of our record months were in the summer, and that alone suggests it’s all about the growth in the region.”

Meanwhile, sales at the Benton/Washington Regional Public Water Authority, more commonly referred to as “Two-Ton,” are on pace to be within 1 percent of its best sales year despite the cooler summer weather.  Scott Borman, the water authority’s general manager, said August’s average high temperature was near 83 degrees. The average August high over the past 40 years is 89 degrees, he said.

Through nine months of 2017, Two-Ton’s customers purchased 2.3 billion gallons. Those customers, who include 16 rural water providers and small cities, sold 3.1 billion gallons last year. It’s clear to Borman that the additional sales are generally to residential customers as its 16 members have about 1,000 more water meters than in 2016, Borman said.

For the Beaver Water District, the biggest growth is in Bentonville, where water consumption was up 11 percent over FY2016. Consumption increased in Fayetteville (5.6 percent), Rogers (4.5 percent) and Springdale (4.4 percent), too.

Population estimates published each March by the Census Bureau identify the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Statistical Area (Northwest Arkansas) as one of the nation's fastest-growing regions. Between the April 2010 Census and July 2016, the region saw its population increase by about 27 people a day. The region's population was near 525,000 in July 2016, but it's now likely to be near 536,000 residents if the region has continued adding 27 people daily.

Future growth is possible, in part, because the water suppliers are well position to provide more drinking water to their customers as their prepared to pull millions of additional gallons from Beaver Lake as the growth continues.

Through the year’s first nine months, Two-Ton’s peak consumption was near 24 million gallons a day with its daily average near 9.5 million gallons. Its plant can deliver 40 million gallons to customers if necessary. That Two-Ton water is delivered to some of the region's fastest-growing cities, including Centerton and other communities in western Benton County.

The Beaver Water District can treat up to 140 million gallons daily, and its peak day in Fiscal Year 2017 was near 68 million gallons.