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
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. 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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