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  Partnership Scores Big
For Water Savings

MWD's second annual report to Reclamation on the Urban Water Conservation Partnership records additional water savings and offers several fresh, constructive lessons for future projects.

To quote the Executive Summary: "Conservation has been recognized as an integral part of an overall plan to ensure reliable water supplies for Southern California."

FUNDS EMPOWER SMALL AGENCIES

USBR pays 40 percent of project costs, MWD up to 50 percent, with the local agency share adding up to at least 10 percent. USBR co-funding allows small agencies to realize gains from conservation programs they would not be able to afford otherwise. Some agencies signed the MOU specifically for USBR funds.

The funding selection committee is composed of USBR's Steve Jones from the Lower Colorado Region, three Metropolitan conservation staff members, a conservation coordinator from Northern California, and a member of the environmental community.

The 56 projects underway or completed within the report period cost $7.5 million. USBR provided $2.9 million of this amount, or 39% of the total cost, thus far delivering 80% of the total federal grant of $3.65 million.

These efforts should save more than 34,000 acre feet at an average regional cost of $182 per acre foot. That's about a three day supply for 20 million people, conserved at half the price of purchasing it from MWD.

KEY LESSONS LEARNED

Details Are Important:
Landscape moisture sensors are potentially cost effective for correcting over-irrigation. Critical factors: where sensors are placed and how they are adjusted, plus the initial extent of over-watering.

Water Pricing Makes a Difference:
Gains from central irrigation computer control systems (Centrals) depend on a specific site's water use history, the local cost of water, and the type of Central system installed. Conservation pricing for water has proven an effective incentive for diligent use of Centrals.

Make It Easy For Folks:
Overall, 11% of the households receiving mail-in surveys responded to them. While residential mail-in survey respondents were mostly cooperative about testing for toilet leaks and shower flow (93 and 59 percent, respectively), only 5% completed the sprinkler system test, the results of which are necessary for determining lawn watering schedules. The testing process may have been too confusing or too much of a bother.

They Will Go Out Of Their Way:
For the touch-tone version of the survey, despite the 15 minutes required to key in answers to 50 questions, the response rate was 10.3%, almost as good as the mail-in rate of return. Again, few survey respondents reported results on sprinkler effectiveness.

The More Personal, The Better:
Some of the standard surveys conducted personally by trained technicians were supplemented by follow-up contact. Customers appreciated the additional attention. Further analysis will show if these customers actually changed their consumption patterns.

Make It Perfectly Clear:
Some standard survey participants were offered an evaluation for a user-friendly sprinkler controller retrofit, plus minor system upgrades. Many who were contacted misunderstood both the process and the offer, thinking they were due a complete system overhaul at water district expense. The miscommunication upset a number of customers, especially those whose landscapes failed the screening examination. The program was discontinued after 40 residences received the retrofit.

Plan For Intermittent Labor and Demand:
Several seasonal survey technicians left the program soon after training to take permanent jobs elsewhere. Also, the workload varied according to the weather, with residents showing less interest when conditions were cool and damp. The need for multiple recruiting and training cycles added to project costs.

Meetings Do Matter:
With the involvement of three wholesale agencies and eleven retail agencies, the communication and decision making issues can become complex. Frequent "Partners Meetings" minimized the unwanted surprises.

Community Control = Community Gains:
The Ultra-Low-Flush Toilet effort this funding cycle proved that local agencies, once they acquire the know-how and staff, prefer to directly control the long-term customer interaction programs, thus building customer goodwill.

It Helps To Have A Badge:
The City of San Fernando's residential survey/direct install ULF toilet program gained the support of the local paper and the escort assistance of the Police Department. Customer response was excellent!

Pay Attention To Salesmanship:
The use of professional telemarketers for CII (commercial/industrial/institutional) survey programs boosted a 25% response rate up to 90%. The survey identified prospective savings amounting to 29% of water use. Customers actually implemented almost half of the recommendations, thus realizing nearly a third of the potential for saving water.

USBR participation gives credibility to urban water conservation as a valued part of water management. The program has been extended until September 30, 1998. More information on the Partnership.