Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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City hopes program will help residents conserve water

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From page A1 | April 07, 2013 | Leave Comment

The city announced the launch of a new program last week that it hopes can help residents better track and cut down on their water use. The tool may pique the interest of Davisites who face higher bills to pay for the city’s $113 million share of the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency surface water project.

The City Council raised water rates citywide last month to ramp up revenues to pay for the project that will bring a new source of drinking water to Davis by 2017.

Meanwhile, the state has mandated a 20 percent reduction in per capita water use by 2020. Locally, the Natural Resources Commission is primed to recommend a conservation goal that is 20 percent lower than the state’s mandate, also by 2020.

The water conservation program, called WaterInsight and created by a Bay Area company called WaterSmart Software, pulls together profiles of individual households based on water consumption-related attributes — such as family and yard sizes — and sends out bi-monthly reports with personalized information that will show the different water consumers the way to more efficient consumption.

The reports detail how much water the household is consuming, how much water other similar households are using and tips catered to specific types of homes on how to better conserve.

“We’re creating a social context, so that someone who’s using average might compare themselves to an efficient household with similar attributes and be persuaded to (become an efficient neighbor),” Peter Yolles, CEO of WaterSmart Software, said Saturday.

For example, if a home has a large yard and garden and most of the water use occurs outside, the tips will likely point to things like a weather-based irrigation controller or drought-tolerant plants as measures to take to improve water conservation.

For mostly “indoor” water consumers, the reports will, again, compare the customer to similar-sized households and then provide tips such as installing low-flow toilets or cutting down on shower time.

The creators of WaterInsight say the program, centered around “behavior-based” ideology, has saved participating households on average between 2 and 5 percent in the first year of implementation.

“Davis has been a leader in energy conservation and progressive city management for decades, so it is only natural that we should lead the way in new methods to conserve water,” City Manager Steve Pinkerton said in a news release last week. “The city strongly encourages all Davis water customers to sign up for the free Home Water Report program on the city website. It is the easiest way for us all to start saving water right away.”

The City Council approved the program for one year in December and it will cost approximately $108,000. It will be paid for through the water utility’s “Water Production” program. Funds are available in that program, according to a city staff report, due to a “minimal amount of well rehabilitations that have occurred (in 2012).”

According to Yolles, the more residents who opt for electronic-only reports, the lower the cost of the program to the city. About 20 percent of the program’s costs come from mailing the reports.

“WaterSmart applauds the city of Davis in advancing the city’s sustainable use of natural resources,” Yolles said in a statement. “Water conservation is one of the most important issues of our time and we hope other cities throughout California will follow Davis’ example.”

In addition to the monthly reports, the program, which is free for residents, also offers an online service where residents can take their conservation efforts even further.

Once logged in, residents can access information presented on graphs that show exactly when and where the most water is used and how much they can reduce consumption through various water-saving techniques. Participants also will find information about local rebate programs on the site.

Additionally, users can take surveys to provide the program with even more detailed information about their households in order to maximize the advice they can glean about conserving water.

The WaterInsight program will extend to about 14,000 of the city’s single-family households, leaving about 2,000 to be used as a control group in order to gauge the effectiveness of the program.

Residents can register for the program at http://davis.waterinsight.com.

— Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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