Level Loading City Water Use

Little Elm bans outdoor watering

I saw this on the local TV news this morning about a small North Texas town that has taken the extreme step of banning ALL outdoor watering because city supplies are low.

How did this happen? I think it’s a lack of level loading (a key lean principle).

In the earlier stage of water restrictions, the TV news said that residents could only water on Tuesday. I think that meant “all residents.” The TV reporter said there was such a huge demand for water Tuesday because everyone had to wait for that day. So, it nearly ran the city tanks dry.

So now, if you weren’t part of the water hoard on Tuesday, you’re out of luck. You can’t water, nobody can water for 10 more days.

I wonder what will happen to water usage after that restriction is over?! This is a bad cycle to be in. Demand will probably be EVEN HIGHER when the townfolk are allowed to water again. If you missed out last Tuesday, you’ll be sure to NOT run out this time — so they will be using water on top of all the others who drained the town well on Tuesday. Crazy.

My city, Keller, has a more reasonable progression of watering restrictions that starts with voluntary restrictions and then mandatory restrictions. But, the plan level loads water usage by dividing the city into fifths, by street address. This spreads water usage out more evenly across five days. We’re still in the “voluntary” restriction phase. I’m sure that level loading policy helps. I wonder if Little Elm can adopt something similar? I bet it would help.

This story reminds me of my days at GM, when office supplies were kept under lock and key (as they are at many work sites). That led to employees hoarding what they could get in their own desks. When you create artificial restrictions on usage or supply, people find ways around the system. This often leads to increased inventory and big spikes in usage of items. How can you apply this lesson to where you work?


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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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1 Comment on "Level Loading City Water Use"

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  1. Mike Lopez says:

    Here is Albuquerque, the city government has put in resrictions so that even numberered house addresses can water M, W, F. Odd numbers house addresses can water T, Th, Su. No house waters on Saturday. Seems like a little more reasonable level loading.

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