Metered Water Use in California Translates to Water Conservation

In 2004, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, enacted a law that required meters to be installed on all residential and commercial properties by 2025. This was partly based on studies that showed metered customers used less water on average than those charged a flat rate.

photo by fboydWater meter in Palm Springs
Water meters help conservation efforts

Last summer, Governor Schwarzenegger signed an executive order mandating all state water utilities to take aggressive, immediate action to reduce water consumption for the remainder of 2008 and prepare for potential worsening water conditions in 2009 and beyond.

Sure enough, 2009 has showed no signs of a decrease in California’s drought conditions.

Almost a year later, California American Water, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Water is the largest investor-owned U.S. water and wastewater utility company, is accelerating its Sacramento water meter retrofit conversion program to foster conservation in response to the ongoing drought. California American Water plans to install meters for its remaining 29,765 flat rate customers, ending decades of unmetered water use in the region.

“Converting flat rate customers to meters encourages residents to conserve because they are charged for the actual amount of water they use,” said Andy Soule, general manager for the company’s northern California division. “Flat rate customers are charged the same amount per month regardless of their water usage. To me, it’s a fairness issue. People should pay for what they use. Metering water usage provides economic incentives to change water use habits.”

California American Water, which began retrofitting customers with meters in 2003, has since outfitted more than 20,700 of its Sacramento flat rate properties – well on track to meet the 2025 goal. However, company officials decided to accelerate the program because of the continuing drought and the Governor’s urgent call for utilities to take more immediate action.

“You can spend all the money, time and effort in the world on conservation awareness,” Soule said. “But, if you don’t have a way for customers to measure how much water they are using, it’s going to be difficult to wage a successful campaign.”

California American Water is fast tracking the program so customers can control their water usage and their costs by conserving.

Written by Reenita Malhotra

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