Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's a start

Using water more efficiently is the most effective and lowest-cost way to increase water supply and decrease wastewater treatment demand and cost. And it's certainly better for the environment than building or expanding dams on our remaining rivers -- think Prius vs. Hummer. Smart water agencies across California have recognized this reality and implemented water conservation and efficiency programs.

For example, today's Record includes an article regarding a Stockton water agency that is giving away -- yes, giving away -- 500 superlow-flow toilets. The article says that use of a toilet like this over a person's "140,000-flush lifetime" could "save enough water to fill a dozen swimming pools."

Local conservation and river advocates have been urging local and regional water agencies to take similar steps. So it's good to see Amador Water Agency taking a step, however small, in that direction.

At its last board meeting, the Agency discussed a pilot conservation program for the Camanche area. Here's what the Amador Ledger Dispatch had to say about it:

Abercrombie submitted several options to reduce consumption and decrease water waste that could possibly include discounts and rebates to customers who use efficient appliances or a water smart irrigation controller.

"The agency would provide a free self-survey kit to guide customers through a step by step home water assessment," he told the board. "Customers who complete the survey would be eligible to receive a free water-wise activity kit, which would include a low flow shower head, kitchen and/or bath sink aerator, a watering gauge and other tips."

And TSPN added:

Finally the Agency as also toyed with the thought of a financial reward for a reduction in water use. However, there are also other factors that the Agency has to keep in mind, such as the increased work load on existing staff to implement such a pilot program as well as a possible reduction in revenue from decreased water usage. The board agreed that smart water use is a primary focus of the Agency and decided to pursue the test program and develop a budget for such a purpose. If the pilot test proves successful the agency plans on expanding into other service areas. For more information about how you can conserve water contact the Amador Water Agency at 223-3018.

It's a start. However, the cheapest way for an agency to educate ratepayers is to post information on its website. Once the web posting is done, there's virtually no cost. The next cheapest way to reach people is through the mail. Having people answer phones is an expensive way to provide tips.

But if you look at the AWA site, there's precious little about conservation. Contrast that with Foothill Conservancy's website, which has had water-saving tips on its home page for months.

If the agency is truly serious about conservation, perhaps it should change its home page to include useful information on conservation and efficiency instead of showcasing a link to a water industry PR site about the state's "water crisis."

You can read more about California dam hype and water reality on Friends of the River's website.

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