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Sept. 17, 2010
Chandler renews focus on water conservation efforts
By Vice Mayor Bob Caccamo
A recent editorial in the Chandler Republic points out (and praises) Chandler’s strategy for water conservation noting that it “aims to raise residents’ awareness about water use and encourages them to become stewards of this precious resource.
The article stems from recent action by the City Council to alter our many water conservation programs; some that include incentives to residents to cut back their use. These programs have been in effect for nearly 15 years and are still working very well.
Consider that in 1996 the average resident used approximately 144 gallons of water per day. Today, that same resident uses just 123 gallons – a decrease of 15 percent. While demand has still increased because of our growing population, the lower per-capita use is great news. It shows that our residents truly embrace the importance of water and living in a desert region.
As has been written in the past, it is no secret that conservation is the most cost-effective way to secure water supplies for the future. Using less water reduces the need for purchasing, treating and delivering water as well as collecting and treating wastewater.
And while we are not experiencing situations that require mandating water restrictions and penalties, we all need to evaluate our water consumption to ensure that it is efficient and sustainable.
As we began to review our conservation program, people were invited to provide feedback through public meetings, water conservation classes, community events and an online survey. From those responses we added one program and modified two others. New to our conservation efforts is a “high use” notification system where we contact homeowners who show a rapid increase of usage from one billing period to the next. This effort can help us identify issues such as leaks that may not be readily apparent to the homeowner or business person. The programs we modified include rebates for smart irrigation controllers and landscape conversions.
Smart controllers are basically irrigation devices that use plant water requirements, weather data and site information to automatically adjust irrigation times. If there is a heavy rainfall or change in temperature, the controllers will change the amount of water applied to the landscape. They can adjust themselves as frequently as once a day. Initially, we offered the controller rebates to homeowners associations because of their heavy water use. They are now available to all City water users including residents and commercial customers. The rebate is good for half the cost of the controller up to $250.
The landscape conversion rebate pays customers for removing larger areas of turf and installing low water use plants. Again, we opened the rebate program to all of our customers including those with large turf areas like apartment complexes.
Two years ago, we also began to offer rebates on low water use washing machines. While these were very popular with residents, the water saved per dollars spent was relatively low compared to what we expect to save with these new programs.
It is our hope that these new and improved programs will encourage utility customers to continue to cut down on water use. Certainly, financial rewards are very gratifying but the ultimate goal is to encourage everyone to assess their water usage and conserve as much as possible.