Water Conservation Planning Introduction

One of the first steps when starting a water conservation program is developing a water conservation plan.  Developing a sound water conservation plan is a multi-step process that requires thought and effort.  A number of conservation planning guidance documents are available to assist in the process.  The 1998 US EPA Water Conservation Planning Guidelines (EPA-832-D-98-001, August 2008) serve as a basis for many of the available guidance documents.  The American Water Works Association M52 Water Conservation Programs - A Planning Manual (available for purchase at www.awwa.org) offers a detailed description of the planning process.  Additional free planning resources are linked below.  The Alliance for Water Efficiency has put together a brief summary of the conservation planning process presented here, but those wishing to carry out these planning steps are encouraged to obtain the M52 manual or other primary sources which cover this topic is greater detail.

Water Conservation Planning Steps


The US EPA identifies 9 fundamental water conservation planning steps in the 1998 guidance document.  These are:

  1. Specify conservation planning goals
  2. Develop a water system profile
  3. Prepare a demand forecast
  4. Describe planned facilities
  5. Identify water conservation measures
  6. Analyze benefits and costs
  7. Select conservation measures
  8. Integrate resources and modify forecasts
  9. Present implementation and evaluation strategy


The AWWA M52 Manual identifies 10 water conservation planning steps based on the EPA guidelines (AWWA 2006).  These steps are:

  1. Review detailed demand forecast
  2. Review existing water system profile and descriptions of planned facilities
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of existing conservation measures
  4. Define conservation potential
  5. Identify conservation measures
  6. Determine feasible measures
  7. Perform benefit-cost evaluations
  8. Select and package conservation measures
  9. Combine overall estimated savings
  10. Optimize demand forecasts

Additional Conservation Planning Resources

Integrating Water Efficiency into Land Use Planning: A Guidebook for Local Planners - This Guidebook provides hundreds of techniques, sample codes/policies, and community examples that explain how to reduce the water footprint of new development. Each chapter in the guidebook provides water efficiency policy options in a different planning stage: comprehensive plans, zoning code, subdivision regulations, site-plan regulations, development agreements, non-zoning incentives, and more. The Guidebook is targeted to land use planning professionals but written in an accessible manner for water professionals and other interested parties as well 

The Handbook of Water Use and Conservation by Amy Vickers (2001) provides a detailed step by step description of the water conservation planning process.

The State of Colorado has developed a detailed water conservation planning guidance document that includes 9 planning steps synthesized from the US EPA and Amy Vickers.  A description of these planning steps is available for free download here. The full Colorado water conservation planning guidance document is available for free download here. 

     AWE (2014) Water Waste Ordinance Examples from Colorado 

The State of Texas has developed a Water Conservation Plan Guidance Checklist to assist utilities in developing meaningful conservation plans.  The Texas water conservation plan guidance checklist is available for free download here. 

The Alliance for Water Efficiency offers technical assistance on conservation planning to its members.  Join AWE today and receive this benefit.

Example Water Conservation Plans

Town of East Gwillimbury – Water and Wastewater Conservation Strategy (2009)

The Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (2009) Water Conservation and Efficiency Performance Measures and Benchmarks within the Municipal Sector