Water Authority board invests additional $1.3 million in water conservation programs


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Water Authority board invests additional $1.3 million in water conservation programs

Emphasis shifts to outdoor water conservation
May 25, 2006

Addressing the need to increase water conservation efforts as part of the region’s long-term water reliability strategy, the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors today approved the addition of $1,327,957 to its fiscal 2007 budget. The additional funds will increase the overall budget for conservation programs to $1,862,113. The Water Authority has projected that conservation will make-up 10 percent of its total water supply by 2020.

In fiscal 2005, water conservation programs resulted in 45,651 acre-feet of water saved. Since 1991, Water Authority water conservation programs resulted in nearly 370,000 acre-feet of water saved. The additional funds will help achieve the Water Authority’s long-term goal of 100,000 acre-feet of water savings annually by 2030.

“Water conservation is a partnership among the Water Authority, its member agencies and the residents and businesses in San Diego County,” said Fern Steiner, Chairman of Legislation, Conservation and Outreach Committee of the Water Authority Board. “Working together, we can manage and conserve this valuable resource and, in doing so, reduce the amount of water that must be imported from outside San Diego County.”

The Board approved an additional $695,114 for landscape conservation programs, $122,843 for the high-efficiency clothes washer voucher program, and $385,000 for the ultra-low flush toilet voucher program. In the residential sector, the Water Authority provided financial incentives for more than 16,000 ultra-low-flush and dual-flush toilets and nearly 12,000 high-efficiency clothes washers in fiscal 2005.

The budget adjustment includes funding to provide a greater emphasis on outdoor conservation, including funding for the purchase of weather-based irrigation controllers, landscape conservation outreach, a water conservation summit and a study on certification and training of landscape contractors and gardeners.

The Commercial, Industrial and Institutional Program, which provides point-of-purchase vouchers for the purchase of water-efficient equipment, received an additional $125,000. During fiscal 2005, the Water Authority issued vouchers for 1,148 high-efficiency commercial clothes washers and 1,539 ultra-low-flush toilets.

A Conservation Ad Hoc Committee chaired by Steiner recommended the funding. The recommendations were based on a detailed technical evaluation by a steering committee of Water Authority member agency general managers. The steering committee considered the effectiveness of existing water conservation programs and developed recommendations to enhance the successful, long-term implementation of water conservation in the region.

The steering committee explored methods to effectively transition from an emphasis on indoor conservation to outdoor landscape conservation. The committee looked at two components: a near-term interim component to build on successful existing programs and provide a foundation for the future; and a long-term strategic approach to ensure permanent water savings from landscape conservation and maximize savings through the Commercial, Industrial, Institutional Program.

“Developing a long-term approach is an inclusive process that will involve the many stakeholders with key roles in the success of outdoor water conservation,” said Steiner. “An important event in this process is the first-ever Water Conservation Summit this fall to bring together key stakeholders from the public, water, local government and business to help set a strategic course for water conservation.”

In addition to enhancing the effectiveness of programs funded by the Water Authority, the committee looked at maximizing the almost $1 million available in grant funds awarded by the state under Proposition 13 and administered by the State Department of Water Resources.

The board included $385,000 to phase out the Water Authority’s residential ultra-low-flush toilet program by July 2007; the program has been available to water customers for 15 years. Currently, only ultra-low-flush models can be purchased.

“A survey of other California water agencies that had terminated toilet voucher programs found that there was a surge in activity when customers were informed this was the last chance to receive an incentive,” said Steiner. “The funding is being provided to meet this anticipated surge in demand during the next year.”
Because of the potential for ULFT retrofits in multi-family sites where a significant number of toilets have not been changed out, incentives through the Water Authority’s Commercial, Industrial, Institutional program for multi-family sites will continue after the current fiscal year.

The Water Authority maintains a longstanding commitment to implementing innovative water conservation measures throughout the region and the state and sponsoring or supporting water conservation legislation that make it a recognized leader of the water industry. The Water Authority is co-sponsoring AB 2496 (Laird) to phase in requirements that toilets and urinals have lower flush volumes, generally reducing toilets from 1.6 gallons per flush to 1.3, and urinals from 1.0 gallons per flush to 0.5 gallons per flush.

The Water Authority also has sponsored a variety of water conservation bills and legislation including:
    •    AB 1561 (Kelley) signed into law in 2002, setting new water efficiency standards for residential clothes washers sold in California;
    •    AB 2717 (Laird) signed into law in 2004, sets a process to identify new opportunities for urban landscape conservation.

Due to the of leadership of the San Diego County Water Authority and its 23 member agencies and a commitment from area residents and businesses, urban per capita water use today is lower than it was in 1990. That is when the Water Authority and other water agencies first put in place conservation Best Management Practices, or BMPs, under a statewide program to reduce urban water use. Since then, the Water Authority has been recognized as an aggressive, innovative leader in conservation for developing and implementing effective policies and programs.

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