Friday, April 24, 2009

City of Greensboro water-boarded its water conservation manager

Cigarettes and water If Lorillard started up a smoking cessation program for its cigarette customers, would you be suspicious? Would you think that Lorillard was just out for some good PR?....or maybe it was to satisfy some government mandate? Now suppose Lorillard’s tiny low-budget smoking awareness program began making a huge impact. Suppose cigarette sales began to decline. Do you think Lorillard would keep that program?... or would Lorillard revise it to have no effect on sales? Or would it be discontinued? Greensboro began a Water Conservation (WC) program during its push to build a new dam. WC was essential so that Greensboro could claim it was doing everything it could to manage its water resources while it argued for a new water supply. Greensboro’s managers never anticipated that WC would achieve any measurable results ….or win 1st place US EPA awards two years in a row. Under Greensboro’s tiny program, water use declined 3 years in a row while Greensboro's population exploded. How can you argue for a controversial and costly dam when water use is declining?

Greensboro's successful WC program became a threat to the scam for the dam. Something had to change.

Would you be surprised if Lorillard’s successful smoking cessation program disappeared? Are you aware that Greensboro’s water conservation program disappeared?


OK, I need your help. I need you to role-play for this post. Will you do it? Good! Thanks! It's 1997..... In this exercise you are a dam scammer. You are“pulling strings” to get a new dam and reservoir permitted and financed. That's your objective.

At the same time, your in-house Water Conservation (WC) program is claiming in a news release that it has created a new water supply—“Lake Efficiency”—and without any new construction. On top of that, your WC manager is winning 1st place EPA awards and a Chamber of Commerce award for water efficiency. He’s on TV and radio. He’s in the newspapers. His “Flapper Rebate Program” and Saturday morning demonstrations at local hardware stores are drawing huge crowds and TV cameras. On a very tiny budget he is making WC converts and citizens are fixing their toilet leaks and swapping out old showerheads. And despite the record number of building permits being issued, water use goes DOWN. Then the following year during another record number of building permits water use goes DOWN again. HUH? DOWN????? Now you become worried. Next, all the dam scammers convene and conclude that Greensboro’s WC program is TOO SUCCESSFUL. IT IS HURTING THE ARGUMENT FOR THE DAM! All of you secretly agree that Greensboro's one-man WC program must be stopped. “But how can we stop it?" you ask. "How can we restrict Mike Baron and still keep up the appearance that we are 100% pro-water conservation?” Here’s what they probably discussed behind closed doors because all of the following happened to me: --“Lets keep his salary very low—maybe he will leave” --“Lets place him very low in the organization reporting to the water accounts manager” --“Do not include him on office memos and communications—he’ll probably revolt or freak out” --“Reject his requests for staff so WC cannot expand” --“Restrict his budget and frustrate him” --“Lock him out of water department meetings (Continued 3 years) and he won’t feel wanted” --“Harass him—maybe he will quit” --“Require that he start using an internal PR person to make his media contacts” --“Don’t allow him to travel to the Atlanta ceremony to receive his EPA award”

Attention Citizens of Greensboro This is the treatment I received for outstanding service. Should anyone be treated this way? The City of Greensboro hired me under false pretences. My hiring agreement required me to reduce water use by 4% during my second year. That sounded totally unrealistic to me but I was a family man and desperate for a good job after having been downsized.

I did not know when I was hired that Utility Director Ray Shaw was against the start-up of a WC program. City Council was forcing it upon him. Some wise Council members realized that in order to argue for the Randleman Dam, Greensboro had to have a WC program. It would look bad if Greensboro didn’t at least try water efficiency.

Conservation was essential to the dam scam

Greensboro’s WC program was never intended to succeed. It was just a necessary component for the approval of a new dam and new reservoir in Randleman. That’s why there is no WC today—because the scammers got the dam and they didn't need WC any longer. They also needed water sales to increase to pay for the scam. Successful conservation reduces water sales. I was used, abused and then released by the City of Greensboro after it secured the dam. Ironically, if I had failed in my mission to save water I would still be employed today and very close to retirement. But because I succeeded (did what I was hired to do) I caused lots of logistical problems for the dam scammers.

The decline in water use scared the living daylights out of them. "How can we argue for a controversial dam when water use is declining?" was on all their minds (Slow learners on City Council eventually learned not to praise WC any longer--and not even say the words WC. Click on CHART to view full size

The scammers lied and claimed demand was increasing. They did everything they could to conceal what was really happening while releasing propaganda that would get everyone on board and ready to pay.

What happened to me and my family after my termination is tragic. If you are a citizen of Greensboro, please know that the dam scam was the reason for my termination. I was just a family man and my success was interfering with $150 million project where some people were going to make lots of money and others were fueling their pride. Whatever Greensboro wants Greensboro gets

This is how the City of Greensboro operates. Anyone close to the City knows that whatever Greensboro wants, Greensboro gets. It wanted the Randleman Dam by hook or crook and it viewed me and my family as collateral damage. I spoke to two different lawyers about my wrongful dismissal and both wanted $3,000 up front to represent me. I did not have the money to sue. And I did not have the proof that I have today. OK, remember, you agreed to role-play now as a “dam scammer” when you read this 1997 national news story:

Conservation produces new Greensboro 'lake' by MIRIAM ROMAIN, Georgia News Editor, September 1997

It's called Lake Efficiency, but you won't find it on any map. Fishing, boating and swimming aren't possible. No land had to be purchased, no dam was required, and permits were not needed. Even state approval was not needed. In fact, an actual lake doesn't exist. Lake Efficiency, which contains treated water ready for public distribution, is the outcome of water efficiency tactics being used the past few years in Greensboro, NC.

Greensboro's drinking water reserves come from Lake Higgins, Lake Brandt and Lake Townsend. It's also awaiting the much anticipated and needed Randleman Reservoir, a cooperative effort undertaken by the Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority, scheduled to open in 2000 or 2001. Greensboro is just one of the communities participating in the Randleman project.

Until the new reservoir opens to help meet Greensboro's increasing water demand, other projects have been instituted to save and even produce more drinking water, says Greensboro Water Conservation Manager Mike Baron. He's been trying to make people realize that there are actually two drinking water projects in existence, the Randleman project and Lake Efficiency, a result of water conservation efforts.

For a long time, in fact, Baron has been trying to figure out how to get people in Greensboro to understand that a new water resource is right under their noses. "It is especially difficult in engineering environments, where people want to just build more things. The idea is that as we become more efficient with what we use, we have "found water," ---water we never knew we had."

Lake Efficiency is filling up more quickly than anyone imagined it would. Its flow is as much as 2 million gallons of water per day, or 6% of Greensboro's daily demand. The city's water treatment plants averaged 34.1 mgd in 1996, which is approaching the 36-mgd safe yield of the lakes. Summertime demand can require as much as 48 mgd, according to city officials.

But according to Baron, Lake Efficiency is producing more water through conservation efforts than is being consumed by new customers tapping into the system. This has caused a decline in the demand for water-- consumption has reverted to 1994 levels, he said.

Water flowing into Lake Efficiency is being produced at a fraction of the cost of water derived from construction projects. For example, a recently completed $9 million expansion of the Lake Townsend Water Treatment Plant will furnish up to 10 mgd. But the Greensboro Utilities Department has spent only $200,000 on Lake Efficiency, and it is already producing 2 million gallons of water per day.

Baron, who has been with the city three years, immediately addressed toilet leakage as a major source of unnecessary water usage. He estimated toilet leakage in Greensboro at 1 to 2 mgd. Next in priority is flushing efficiency and behind that is shower flow, he said. "This is obvious to me and yet a lot of people don't seem to look at toilet leakage. They go off and do a whole myriad of things in water conservation, but they miss the obvious," he noted.

To address these problems, Baron campaigned for various water conservation participants who'd address the three issues. First were three apartment complexes that not only fixed leaking toilets, but installed early closing flappers. In that demonstration project, a 35% reduction in water use was realized, translating into 9.5 million gallons saved in one year.

"I like to say we produced 9.5 million gallons because the water that those apartment complexes no longer required we started shipping elsewhere. The water plants don't know if the apartments did a retrofit or not. So, the conservation project there produced 9.5 million gallons that is already in the pipeline. It's treated water already in the distribution system and now we can direct it to other places in the city," he explained.

In the second year, there are no additional costs to the apartments and no incentives, yet they will produce another 9.5 million gallons of water in the second and third years. But, eventually toilets will begin leaking and production from those units will decrease, Baron said.

Incentives were used to entice other Greensboro residents to try the early closing flapper on their toilets, as well as low-flow showerheads. In fact, a $4 rebate on the purchase of the early closing flapper was offered and the showerhead program was conducted by having people bring in their old showerheads for a new one to encourage installation.

"Either they're showering under our showerhead or they're getting a mighty blast of water out of a half-inch pipe," Baron quipped.

Baron expects his list of water-conserving customers to grow, and that Lake Efficiency will be able to satisfy Greensboro's increasing demand for water until the Randleman Reservoir is ready in 2000. Copyright (c) 1995-2009 by National Technical Communications Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Am I a simply a "disgruntled former employee with an axe to grind?"...Or was I collateral damage in a scheme to build an unnecessary dam by hook or crook? I am compelled to report my experience because there are Water Conservation managers and coordinators across the US who cannot perform their jobs. They are constrained by water-selling utilities led by water engineering managers who design and build things for a living (i.e. Greensboro). Never-ending expansion is their motto. Greensboro's water utility is expanding while its water use is declining. Hellooooooooo? Only a monopoly has such luxury.

And Greensboro's DAM MEDIA is giving Greensboro a free pass! I continue to report this story because our nation's water supply is being squandered by utilities who sell water for profit. Whenever a water-selling-for-profit manager oversees the water conservation program you have the fox guarding the hen house. And every one of them from Boston to San Francisco will claim he or she is "all for conservation" because it sounds good and people believe it.

Water-selling-for-profit must change for America to become water efficient. Otherwise utilities like Greensboro will sell all the water they can.

There is a giant story here just waiting to be addressed by the federal government and the national media. It's not just a local story. I know what I am talking about! Listen to me!

That's my motivation. NOW WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME WITH THIS IMPORTANT STORY? If you sell all the water you can (for profit), you will eventually run out and need more!

Greensboro is currenly selling all the water it can because its water sales are too low to fund water works operations and also pay for Randleman!Greensboro needs the $$$ and its not one bit interested in water conservation!

I said "just watch" in 1999...and it came true! False forecasting, declining water use, hype about the dam by 2000 or else Greensboro runs dry. That was all false.

Now in 2009 I am saying, "Just watch......"

Maybe when our nation runs dry from over-selling this resource you will remember my warning. Only when utilities and/or cities are rewarded for conserving water rather than selling it for profit will they work to conserve it. Until then they will sell all they can.

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