Water Authority Board Expands Conservation Efforts

Short Title
Water Authority Board Expands Conservation Efforts
Emphasis placed on landscape conservation
December 12, 2002

The San Diego County Water Authority board of directors today approved an expanded water conservation plan that enhances current programs and adds innovative new programs to the effort. The plan, which places special emphasis on outdoor landscape conservation programs, will result in an additional water savings of 47,091 acre-feet over the next five-to10 years.

Since 1991, the Authority’s conservation programs have conserved 187,242 acre-feet, enough water to serve the needs of almost 375,000 families for a year. The Water Authority expects to achieve a savings of approximately 31,164 acre-feet of water through the 2003 program enhancements, a 13 percent increase over the 27,547 acre-feet of water conserved in 2001-2002. Additional water savings will be achieved on a cumulative basis over subsequent years.

The Water Authority, a recognized leader in water conservation, has aggressively developed and implemented both innovative and traditional programs. Since 1991, the Water Authority has committed $1.5 million per year to water conservation efforts. Over the past 11 years, matching funds from state and federal sources, member agencies, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), have allowed the Water Authority to invest up to $6 million per year, or a total of approximately $66 million, in conservation efforts.

In 2001, the Water Authority received the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Lower Colorado Region 2001 Water Conservation Field Services Program Award for the residential HEW (High Efficiency Washer) Voucher Program. The Water Authority also won The Governor's 2001 Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for the Commercial/Industrial/Institutional Voucher Program for outstanding contributions in the area of energy conservation.

Water conservation is a significant component in the Water Authority’s mission to provide a safe and reliable supply of water to the San Diego region. Current conservation programs focus on residential and commercial sectors for both indoor and outdoor water savings and are a critical part of the Water Authority’s Urban Water Management and Water Resources plans.

“Water conservation is our first line of defense in providing a reliable water supply to San Diego County,” said Bill Jacoby, water resources manager for the Water Authority. “The Water Authority remains strongly committed to indoor conservation through a variety of programs such as the high-efficiency residential and commercial clothes washer voucher programs.

“We recognize that opportunities for indoor savings, such as retrofitting with ultra-low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads are close to being maximized,” said Jacoby. As we look to the future, the natural transition is to focus even greater attention on outdoor water saving opportunities.”

The projected savings in 2003 will be achieved through a combination of current and new programs for a variety of water saving devices. This expansion will result in an annual savings of approximately 3,617 acre-feet of water or 18,791 acre-feet over the five to 10-year life of the various devices. Further savings will be achieved through the addition of incentive programs for new devices and conservation efforts in 2004 and beyond. This is projected to save an additional 28,300 acre-feet of water over approximately the next 10 years.

The plan approved by the board Thursday expands the Water Authority’s current conservation programs during 2003. Additional voucher programs for devices such as hospital X-ray film processors, multi-load clothes washers, water-pressurized brooms and pre-rinse spray heads for dishwashers will increase the amount of water saved through conservation by an additional 18,791 acre-feet over the life of these devices.

The additional annual water savings projected for 2004 and beyond will be achieved through new incentive programs for devices such as dual-flush toilets and outdoor irrigation evapotranspiration controllers. Other planned conservation efforts will include replacing grass sports fields with artificial turf and installing on-site commercial/industrial/institutional water recirculating systems.

The Water Authority has had successful indoor and outdoor conservation programs in place for many years. Among its outdoor efforts are free irrigation system evaluations for agricultural properties and free micro-irrigation education programs for grove workers. Owners of sites installing water efficient irrigation systems can receive an incentive of $154 per acre-foot of verifiable water savings through the Landscape Assistance Program funded by MWD.

The Water Authority also offers free, basic landscape and irrigation training in both English and Spanish to field-level irrigators and residents of single-family homes through the Protector Del Aqua program. Free audits of irrigation systems and landscaping for residential sites with more than an acre of landscape through the Professional Assistance for Landscape Management (PALM) program are also offered by the Water Authority, which has resulted in a water savings of 17,723 acre-feet since the program’s inception.

The Water Authority has been a leader in commercial and residential indoor water conservation through its point-of-purchase voucher program. The program provides a purchase price reduction for commercial ultra-low-flush toilets and urinals, coin-operated high-efficiency clothes washers and cooling tower conductivity controllers. These programs have resulted in more than 4,400 acre-feet of water savings to date.

Along with the commercial voucher program, the Water Authority has a highly successful residential voucher program for ultra-low-flush toilets and high-efficiency clothes washers. Through this program, more than 437,000 toilets have been retrofitted throughout the county resulting in a water savings of about 107,500 acre-feet to date. Almost 556,000 low-flow showerheads have been installed, providing an additional savings of some 33,000 acre-feet of water.

The residential high-efficiency clothes washer voucher program has resulted in the purchase of more than 13,500 water and energy efficient clothes washers and a savings of another 550 acre-feet to date. The Water Authority sponsored state legislation this year (AB1561) that requires high-efficiency clothes washers meet or exceed a water efficiency standard of 9.5 to be sold in California by 2007; California is the first state in the nation to pass such legislation.

Several innovative efforts are planned for 2003 and 2004. Working with MWD, the Water Authority plans to provide an incentive program for the purchase and installation of water efficient, recirculating X-ray film processors. These units can save an average of 3.2 acre-feet of water per unit, per year. Installation of these systems in local hospitals and large medical centers is projected to save 800 acre-feet of water over the five-year life of the systems.

The Water Authority has received a $350,000 grant from California Department of Water Resources Proposition 13 funds to develop a voucher program for 500 multi-load commercial clothes washers. It is estimated that one 55-pound, multi-load machine can save as much as 2.83 acre-feet of water in its 10-year lifetime.

Other incentive programs are planned for water-pressurized brooms to replace traditional hoses used to clean large hardscape surface areas at commercial and industrial facilities, and pre-rinse spray heads used in by typical food service operations to rinse off dishes prior to placing them in the dishwasher.

Continuing its commitment to indoor conservation, the Water Authority’s current toilet voucher program will be expanded in 2004 to include an incentive for the installation of dual-flush toilets which operate at 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) for solid matter and 0.8 gpf for liquid, saving an additional 2,250 gallons per year, per toilet over the standard ultra-low-flush toilet models. A pilot program will offer new housing developments financial incentives to install these dual-flush toilets.

The Water Authority’s increased emphasis on outdoor conservation will include the implementation of a voucher program for new irrigation controllers that automatically change irrigation schedules based on local evapotranspiration (Eto) rates. Eto controllers will be offered to the commercial sector first, the market with the greatest opportunity for savings and the technical expertise to use this new technology. Projected savings for a single controller over a 10-year period range from 125 to 187.5 acre-feet of water, depending on the size of the landscaped area. Residential Eto-based timer vouchers are expected to be available in 2005 and beyond.

The Water Authority and interested member agencies, in cooperation with MWD, are developing a commercial landscape incentive program. This program will provide $2,500 to small, commercial landscapers for hardware to improve irrigation efficiency. To participate in the program customers must provide $2,500 of matching funds.

The Water Authority is also researching a program to provide financial assistance to public organizations to replace grass sports fields with artificial turf. Sports field managers are interested in artificial turf because of water and maintenance savings, as well as demand to keep sports fields open continuously. Lifetime water savings is estimated to be 95 acre-feet for each site over 10 years.

The Water Authority plans to develop an outreach program with nurseries and home improvement stores to inform customers about the water and horticultural needs of plants that both improve the appearance of the landscape and save water. On-site education and information will assist customers in purchasing plants that are appropriate to their needs. This program could include signage with conservation messages, grouping plants by water needs with signage, educational signage explaining how to plant species with similar water and horticultural needs together, plant labels describing water and horticultural needs of plants, and signage on the efficient use and management of turf. All signs and labels will be colorful, highly visible and easy to understand by the average customer. A similar effort will be implemented in the irrigation hardware section.

In addition to the current and future conservation programs, the Water Authority will continue its ongoing effort to communicate the importance of conservation through the media, publications and educational opportunities. The Authority’s Elementary and Secondary Schools Water Education Program provides a variety of highly educational and entertaining programs for grades K through 12. Last year, more than 69,000 students participated in 947 classroom presentations throughout the county. In addition, almost 100 teachers’ workshops were conducted. Since its inception in 1990, the Water Authority’s School Education Program has reached more than 1.75 million students and 50,000 teachers with water education and conservation programs.

The San Diego County Water Authority is a public agency serving the San Diego region as a wholesale supplier of water from Northern California and the Colorado River. The Water Authority works through its 23 member agencies to provide a safe, reliable water supply to almost three million county residents.

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