W. Brian Hiatt has served as Concord's City Manager since 1998. He came to Concord from Hickory where he served as Assistant City Manager for over 10 years. Brian holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in History and Government Service from Appalachian State University where he was a summa cum laude graduate, and a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Active in the community, Brian is a Past President of the Academic Learning Center and continues to serve on that Board. He is on the Board of Directors for the Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation and the Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County. He currently serves as Chairman of the Cabarrus County United Way, his second time serving in that role. Brian served as the Chair of the United Way Campaign in Cabarrus County in 2002. He is a Past-President of the Concord Rotary Club, where he was named Rotarian of the Year in 2012, and the Lake Hickory Rotary Club. He is also a former board member of Hospice of Cabarrus County. He is a Past President of the North Carolina City and County Management Association, having served as President in 2012-13, and has served on several committees supporting the International City and County Management Association. Brian was a member of the Board of Directors of the NC League of Municipalities from 2004 through 2008. Brian is married to Julie, and they have two grown children, Andrew and Erin.
by Brian Hiatt
The "D" Word
This summer, much of North Carolina faced drought conditions. Concord and other local governments in our area are encouraging conservation. Many who have lived in Concord for a few years know that we have long used proactive ways to protect our water resources.
The problem this summer has been the lack of rainfall combined with tremendous heat and the resulting rapid evaporation of water sources. At the same time, drought conditions cause many to try to use more water, primarily due to residential lawn irrigation.
One method to discourage excessive irrigation, adopted by Concord in 2002, is our tiered water pricing system. Many local government water systems are still using a formula based on providing water at the lowest cost and the lowest level of regulation. This works in the private sector if you are dealing with a product that is manufactured. However, it does not work when you have a finite resource like water. Concord is still one of the few local governments using a tiered rate where the price goes up if you are an above average user.
Studies show that water customers average using up to 6,000 gallons per month over a year, with the lowest use during winter months. In Concord, once a residential customer's monthly use exceeds 6,000 gallons, the price per gallon increases. The cost jumps significantly again when monthly use exceeds 9,000 gallons.
Those with separate irrigation meters pay a higher rate from the first gallon.
We talk a lot about regionalism in the Charlotte area. Regionally, we need to have conversations that include, but go beyond water supply. It is clear that business use is not the challenge in reducing consumption during peak periods. In fact, industrial use has declined in many communities, except when it comes to irrigation. As a region, the problem is pricing structures and our lack of systems to encourage conservation on a permanent basis, not just when there is a drought.
Tiered rates are combined with limitations on the days irrigation is allowed, to encourage residents to limit irrigation to just the amount needed to maintain lawns and plants. However, there are even more ways residents and businesses can conserve water. You can find conservation tips and other resources at concordnc.gov/water.
Concord and Kannapolis are currently finishing a project with the City of Albemarle to bring in more water from the Yadkin River. However, tiered pricing and other practices will need to remain in place to encourage conservation-minded water use, even though we will have access to more potable water.
I have no doubt that conservation techniques and new reuse technology will enable us to change the way we use water in the future. We must be creative in adopting these new practices as they are available. These advances are essential to protect our natural resources, but they come at a price. This as another reason why Concord has implemented permanent changes in the philosophy of its water utility, such as tiered pricing. Although it may be more popular in some communities to try to avoid this reality, it is critical that we all do our part to secure the water needed to live, work, and play across the region.