Alliance for Water Efficiency Releases Major New Research Study on Drought Response and Water Demands

Use and Effectiveness of Municipal Irrigation Restrictions During Drought study

Chicago, IL— 1/23/20 Today the Alliance for Water Efficiency released a major new research study on municipal drought response and water demand. The Use and Effectiveness of Municipal Irrigation Restrictions During Drought study explores how drought response measures have been implemented and how water demand reductions have been achieved across different water suppliers in different states.  

“The results confirm the effectiveness and importance of irrigation restrictions during a drought,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “The research shows that when necessary and with proper implementation, substantial demand reductions can be achieved by communities working together during a drought.”

Key findings from the study include:

  • Case study participants in California and Texas successfully reduced annual demand by 18-30 percent and peak monthly demand by 20-42 percent through a combination of mandatory demand management measures.
  • Within this study, voluntary conservation did not generate statistically significant savings (i.e., estimated savings are indistinguishable from zero).
  • Messaging and enforcement are viewed as best practices and essential components of a successful drought response.
  • Water Shortage Contingency Plans should include all of these components: messaging, enforcement, irrigation day-of-week and/or time-of-day restrictions, drought surcharges, and implementation strategies.
  • To be effective, Water Shortage Contingency Plans need codified rulemaking to include provisions that are enforceable on non-compliant customers.

“There are many substantive findings in this report that water utilities will want to learn,” said Dickinson. “This is the largest study to date of municipal drought response in America in terms of scope and breadth.”

Learn more and download the Executive Summary here.

While the Executive Summary is available to the public, AWE members have access to the full report. Click here for the request form.

This two-year research study was conducted by Anil Bamezai, PhD of Western Policy Research along with Lisa Maddaus and her team at Maddaus Water Management, Inc. AWE sponsored this study with financial support from the participating water utilities. Peter Mayer of Water Demand Management developed the original research concept and served as AWE’s project manager for the study.

This research is part of AWE’s Outdoor Water Savings research initiative which has produced several major research reports:

  • Phase 1 Review of Existing Research (2014)
  • Peak Demand Reduction Study (2017)
  • Landscape Transformation Study (2019)
  • Drought Restrictions Study (2020)