Archive for Sunday, July 15, 1990

UTILITY BILLS ARE UNPREDICTABLE AS THE WEATHER

July 15, 1990

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Mother Nature has been sending mixed signals. Last Sunday, the mercury rose to a sweltering 97, but reached only 69 Thursday.

But the weather, be it hot and sultry or cool and wet, affects more than local residents' comfort. It also determines the size of utility bills.

Ralph Gelvin, water systems engineer at Kaw River Water Treatment Plant, said more than 50 percent of water produced for the city of Lawrence ends up outside, such as watering lawns or filling swimming pools.

"When we have rain, production nosedives," he said.

For example, during the first week in July, temperatures soared and the plant produced about 14.5 million gallons of water each day. This past week was much cooler with occasional rains and the plant averaged only 10.5 million gallons of water each day.

In June of 1988, Lawrence saw almost no rain and the temperature reached at least 98 every day during the third week. On June 25, 1988, the water plant set a production record of 21.8 million gallons.

GELVIN SAID fluctuating temperatures can produce a major drop in water production virtually overnight. When last Sunday's high reached 97, the plant produced 17.25 million gallons of water. On Thursday, production fell to 10.8 million gallons.

"We can definitely tell when people are using more water," Gelvin said.

Although use of air conditioners and fans raises electric bills, Tom Taylor, director of corporate communications for KPL Gas Service, the local electric utility, said local consumers are saving money compared to consumers in other parts of the country.

Taylor said the typical KPL residential electric bill falls about 23 percent below the national average. For the use of 750 kilowatthours of electricity, Kansans typically are billed about $49. The national average is about $64.

THIS YEAR'S rate is sligthly lower than last year's. However, Taylor said the savings might not be noticeable on this summer's bills because recent hot weather has triggered greater use of air conditioners and fans.

"Even though the actual price is lower, that won't be enough to offset the extra cost of using more electricity," he said. "We've produced 29 percent more electricity this month so far than during the same time last year."

Lawrence's residential electric meters are read at different times of the month, so temperatures affect individual residents' bills differently, Taylor said.

If a customer was billed from the middle of June to the middle of July, the bill probably reflected the extra use of electricity during hot weather. However, if the bill covers the whole month of July and cool temperatures persist, the bill might be somewhat smaller.

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