FARGO — The COVID-19 pandemic began affecting the Fargo-Moorhead metro area in earnest about two months ago, when many people stopped going to the office and began working from home.

At the same time, students stopped going to school as stay-at-home orders took effect.

The shift to staying home, plus the call from public health officials for better hand hygiene, prompts some questions about water use: Have people been showering less, but washing their hands more? With the fall in commercial activity, did overall water use dry up as well?

According to numbers provided by Fargo's water treatment plant, which provides water to Fargo, West Fargo and part of the Cass Rural Water Users District, the average daily water use from March 7 to May 7 was 11.7 million gallons per day.

The average daily water use for the same period for the prior three years was about 12.18 million gallons per day, about half a million gallons more.

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Troy Hall, water utility director for the city of Fargo, said a number of factors can effect water use, including rain events and daily temperatures, making it difficult to draw conclusions about why water use changes.

Given those variables, he said he was reluctant to say Fargo has been using less water due to COVID-19.

But, he added, "It is possible."

On the east side of the Red River, numbers from Moorhead Public Service show that overall water use in the city in April was down 1% compared to April 2019.

That includes this breakdown:

  • Residential usage was up 5% in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
  • Apartment usage was up 2%.
  • Commercial usage was down 7%.
  • Industrial usage was down 4%.

Travis Schmidt, interim general manager and electrical engineering manager for MPS, said the overall reduction of water use could probably be attributed to closure or reduced hours of businesses as well as the closing of schools and other changes based on the COVID-19 situation.

He said the increase in residential and apartment usage is likely to due to people following Minnesota's stay-at-home order in April.