Water Efficiency is a Good Business Proposition

AWE's Mary Ann Dickinson Pens Op-Ed for Sacramento Business Journal


The following op-ed by Mary Ann Dickinson, AWE President & CEO and CalWEP Executive Director, was published     August 9, 2018 in the Sacramento Business Journal. Click here for the original publication. 

"When you think about dry cleaning, water might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but Sharon Sargeant of Bud’s Cleaners in Roseville says that water is one of their largest costs. 'Of course, we use it in the laundry,' she said. 'But most of the water we use is actually to cool our dry-cleaning machine, which is about the size of a Volkswagen.'

When the city of Roseville's water conservation team contacted Bud’s in 2015 to investigate a sudden spike in its water use, they found that the water chiller used to cool Bud’s dry-cleaning machine could be upgraded with a high-efficiency model that recycles water. The new equipment spurred a dramatic drop in water use—about 85 percent or 3.6 million gallons annually—in addition to providing a 48 percent savings in their water, sewer and energy costs.

Such water-saving success stories will certainly become more common in California in the coming years. Past droughts brought the passage of strong state laws and policies to promote a conservation ethic, and these laws have been very effective: California ranks No. 1 among the 50 states as having the most sophisticated water efficiency policies in the nation.

This year, California’s commitment to water conservation and efficiency got even stronger with the passage of landmark legislation setting reduction targets for water providers. These new laws outline an overall framework for setting and meeting water use targets at the water provider level. The targets will be customized for each water provider and will include a combination of an indoor target of 55 gallons per person per day, an outdoor target based on development of outdoor water budgets for residential and commercial customers, and a water loss target to stem leakage in the utility distribution system. A credit will be given for systems that have developed recycled water.

But state laws are not the only reason that Californians have been leaders in the country. California’s water providers have collectively spent hundreds of millions of dollars since the 1980s on financial incentives to residential and business customers to encourage them to save water. And it is not just the residential customer who benefits.

Commercial, industrial and institutional customers use about a third of the state’s urban water supply, and these customers can also profit by water conservation financial incentives. Like Roseville and other water providers in the region, the city of Sacramento offers generous incentives to business customers for saving water: replacing inefficient plumbing fixtures, changing out thirsty lawns with beautiful, low-water landscaping, upgrading irrigation systems and adding water-saving technologies such as connectionless food steamers, air-cooled ice machines and other devices. It is a good business proposition, both for the city and for the commercial customer. And now with the new legislation, water providers will be even further motivated to work with their business community to provide incentives for their efficiency efforts."