Programs keep the well from running dry
In the past 30 years, water consumption in the United States has tripled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and by 2013, 36 states anticipate local, regional and statewide water shortages, according to a 2003 survey by the Government Accountability Office. To curb the nation’s water use, both to conserve the supply and to save consumers money, two educational programs have been developed to help communities promote water conservation to residents.
Water — Use It Wisely began six years ago in Mesa, Ariz., one of 10 member cities in the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA), and was soon adopted by other AMWUA members, including Phoenix. The program resulted from a survey of residents’ water conservation practices. “[The residents] knew that they needed to save water,” says Mary Lu Nunley, public information specialist for the Phoenix Water Conservation Office. “[But] they wanted to know how they should save water.”
AMWUA created a television ad campaign providing tips, such as turning off the water while washing dishes and sweeping driveways instead of hosing them off. “One of the things that was very critical for the [AMWUA] cities was to get a look that was eye-catching, that was striking and that was professional,” Nunley says. Along with the television ads, AMWUA produced brochures, put information on Web sites, and promoted the campaign at local events.
Now, a marketing firm hired by AMWUA is spreading the program nationwide. Communities can adapt Water — Use It Wisely depending on their budgets and goals says Carol Ward-Morris, program coordinator for AMWUA’s Regional Water Conservation Program. “You can go as small as getting static clings to put on windows and bathroom mirrors, or you could develop a full-blown media campaign,” she says.
The Hampton Roads, Va., Water Efficiency Team (HR WET), a regional coalition of 16 communities, became a Water — Use It Wisely partner in 2003. One appealing aspect of the program was the fact that it is nationwide, says Nancy Howard, a water resources planner for HR WET member Newport News Water Works. “Our community [has a large population of] military personnel who may either already know the campaign [in other states], or will take that knowledge with them to the next [state to which they are assigned].”
WaterSense is another educational program created by EPA in June 2006 primarily to provide technical information to local water utilities, identify water-saving products and offer water conservation tips to the public.
Butler County, Ohio, plans to incorporate WaterSense into its existing water conservation program, says Dusty Dunaway, public relations coordinator for the county’s Department of Environmental Services (BCDES). That program includes the distribution of water efficiency kits that contain low-flow showerheads, leak detection instructions and educational material. The county hands out about 500 kits a year at home improvement shows and on request. “The reason a lot of residents love [the kits] is [that it] saves them money on their water bills.”
As part of the WaterSense product labeling initiative, third-party agencies will certify that products meet EPA water-saving guidelines. The labels are important to Frisco, Texas, officials who are trying to promote the use of evapotranspiration (ET) controllers on the city’s automatic sprinkler systems. ET controllers use weather data, such as rainfall, to distribute only enough water to replace the loss from evaporation.
Frisco Public Works Director Gary Hartwell says automatic sprinkler systems can waste a lot of water if allowed to operate randomly. The city requires the controllers to be installed in new homes, and it is offering an exemption to watering-day regulations to residents who upgrade older automatic sprinkler systems to include the controllers.
The city already has a list of approved ET sensor manufacturers. Hartwell says WaterSense will provide additional quality assurance. “This technology is going to be a big player in water conservation efforts across the nation,” he says.