Fiona Sanchez Wins AWE Water Star Award


Fiona SanchezAt the 2015 WaterSmart Innovations Conference, AWE presented its Water Star Award to Fiona Sanchez. This coveted award is given to an unsung hero whose dedication, passion and progressive approaches propel the field of water efficiency forward. Sanchez's accomplishments include:

  • Co-creating the community-based organization model for retrofitting high flush toilets with ultra-low flush toilets in the 1990s in partnership with Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Los Angeles Department of Water, and Power and Central Basin MWD. The initial program was a 1,000 unit pilot with one community group, the Mothers of East LA. Eventually, over one million toilets were retrofitted through this program, which not only brought water savings, but created local community jobs. Variations of this program were later replicated throughout California, New York, Georgia and Texas.
  • Co-developing the online water budget tool for the Municipal Water District of Orange County. This program provides landscapers and property managers access to an online tool to assist them in better managing landscape water use. A third party analysis of this program by A&N Technical Services reported average water savings of 765 gallons per meter per day.
  • Researching weather-based controllers and installing some of the first smart controllers in California. The Buck Gully Runoff Reduction Study quantified the water savings and the associated reduction in urban runoff from the installation of these devices.
  • Designing and managing the Irvine Ranch Water District's $1 million a year conservation program, which ties financial incentives to cost-effective water savings. Devices and programs include ULFTs, high efficiency clothes washers, industrial process improvements, turf replacement, high efficiency toilets, weather based irrigation controllers, and rotary nozzles. The associated total lifetime water savings across all fiscal years from these programs since 2005 is approximately 37,000 AF.
  • Revising IRWD's water budget rate structure allocations in 2009--not revised since 1991--and incorporated changes to the plumbing code and installation of more efficient plumbing devices. Indoor residential allocations were reduced from 75 to 55 gpcd, and the outdoor allocation was also reduced.

In addition to these achievements, she developed a standardized protocol for ET Data in California, and has managed numerous studies that have evaluated and advanced understanding of the effectiveness or impacts of new conservation technologies and water efficiency in general. Since 1991 the average daily water use for an IRWD residential customer ahs fallen from 170 gallons per day to approximately 86 gallons per day in 2014. Imported water supply from northern California went from 62% to a low of 23% in in 2014. Most impressive is that IRWD tells its customers that this conservation reduction helps keep water rates low, an excellent message!