Feb 10, 2014

California Pilot Program Helps Conserve Water

Pilot program allows users to see how their water use compares to their neighbors

Behavioral Water Efficiency Program Northern California Klaus Reichardt

In Northern California, a program to help reduce water consumption and use water more efficiently is proving to be more successful than anticipated.

Developed by the California Water Foundation (CWF) and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) the pilot program allows users to see how their water use compares to neighbors living in similar homes and circumstances.

Politely referred to as the "behavioral water efficiency" program, but sometimes referred to as the "shame" program, it finds that when consumers find out how their water use compares with their neighbors, water consumption overall declines by 5%.

"The research shows that people are motivated to conserve water when you let them know that their water use exceeds that of similar homes," said Lester Snow, executive director of CWF. "[This program] could prove [to be] an especially helpful tool for California utilities, which face state requirements to reduce their per capita water use by 20% by 2020."

It can have some more immediate benefits as well, according to Klaus Reichardt, CEO and founder of California-based Waterless Co. Inc., maker of no-water urinals and related restroom products. "2013 was one of the driest years on record for California and predictions are that 2014 will not be much better," he said.

Reichardt added that programs such as this also may encourage consumers, including residential and commercial, to seek out new and innovative ways to use water more efficiently.

"In the past few months, we have definitely seen an 'uptick' in information requests for restroom products that use water more efficiently," he said. "This is likely not because of the behavioral study, but just the realization here in California that water is evolving into a major, long-term issue."

Satisfied with the results of the study, the EBMUD said it plans to expand the behavioral program.