News Briefs: Madison Utility Records Massive Five-Year Decline in Water Use

Also in this week's sewer and water news, an Iranian hacker takes a Texas utility's website offline

New numbers from 2019 show the biggest five-year decline in water use ever in Madison, Wisconsin. Last year, Madison Water Utility pumped 8.9 billion gallons to homes, schools and businesses across the city. It’s the lowest amount since 1967, and a billion gallons less than the utility pumped just five years ago.

“It’s amazing, really,” says the utility’s Water Supply Manager Joe DeMorett. “I don’t think anybody predicted this big of a change.” 

 Water use in Madison hit an all-time high in 2001, when Madison Water Utility pumped 12.2 billion gallons of water from wells across the city. Since then, water use has dropped by more than 27%. 

 Madison Water Utility also tracks the annual per-capita water use of people living in single-family homes, and the change is even more dramatic. In the early 2000s, people in Madison used an average of 75 gallons per person, per day. Last year, that number was just 50.8 — a 32% drop and a new record low. It’s a full 10 gallons per person less than five years ago. 

Madison Water Utility General Manager Tom Heikkinen points to a combination of factors for the drop — more efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures; the loss of industry in Madison, like Oscar Mayer, which had been the city’s biggest water user; and a decline in outdoor watering because of several unusually wet summers. 

Read more about this story at the City of Madison - Madison Water Utility.

Car Crash Into Hydrant Knocks Out Water Service for 50

Owensboro (Kentucky) Water Utility officials reported recently that a car crash knocked out water service for around 50 people after the vehicle collided with a fire hydrant.

State police say two of their vehicles were traveling westbound on a road when a teen driver pulled out in front of them. The teen’s car, along with one of the police cruisers, slid off the road and into the hydrant.

Water service was restored later that day and no one was injured in the crash.

Hacker Takes Texas Utility Website Offline

The Public Utility Commission of Texas’ website was recently taken offline by a hacker who claimed to be from Iran. The site’s homepage was replaced with a message greeting visitors that read “Hacked by Anonymous Iranian.”

This recent cybersecurity issue comes after numerous warnings from agencies in the United States saying utilities are at special risk of being targeted in cyber warfare efforts and recommendations that utilities assess the security of their online assets.

The site has since been fixed, but it’s unclear whether any other systems were accessed by the hacker.


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