Increasing Water Costs Raise Many Questions

Brooke Mittermann

Last week we hosted Tap into Water Saving Opportunities, an educational webinar about the risks of rising water costs, how to mitigate increasing costs, and the future of water in the United States.

Water costs have increased more than 30 percent across the country since 2008, due to aging infrastructure, serious drought conditions and unfolding regulations. These factors will continue to drive up the cost of water.

The lack of standardization of water prices and regulations raised a number of questions during our webinar, and we wanted to share a few of the answers.

QUESTION 1:

My company currently does not have a water conservation strategy. What would you suggest as a good first step in starting one?

The first step is to gather what data you can from utility invoices, meter readings and site level detail on water-related equipment. If you have multiple locations, be aware that water utilities measure usage in many different units; you will need to convert all usage to a common unit. This will help establish a baseline, reveal high use sites, and identify sites with high or increasing unit costs.

Establishing a baseline will help you establish goals and track your water program results.

QUESTION 2:

What are some reputable sources for finding U.S. water rates in order to determine where to focus our efforts?

Unlike energy, water rates across the United States are a little bit like the Wild West right now and there isn’t a collective resource to find water rate information. Each year, Ecova utilizes its existing database of water information to reach out to a number of different utilities and water districts. Through this targeted outreach and investigation, Ecova is able to estimate water rates for the following year. This information is then used to help our clients prioritize plans, budget forecasting, and strategically implement efficient measures where they will have the greatest impact.

QUESTION 3:

What kind of rebate opportunities are available for smart irrigation systems?

Incentives and rebates vary by the water district. Your local water provider will have information on existing or future incentive programs. We’ll likely see incentive programs increase as water districts work with customers to reduce water use. One opportunity we have seen across the regions in incentives for turf removal.

QUESTION 4:

What is the best way of collecting and utilizing meter data across hundreds of sites nationwide?

Educating your site staff on reading and understanding the meter is one way of collecting this information. For this method you will need to have dedicated personnel at each site for daily meter reads, a system for getting all site information aggregated to one place, and then time to analyze the data. This is time and resource intensive. Another option is to partner with an outside source who can manage the collection and analysis of this data, leaving your internal teams free to accomplish broader resource management initiatives.

QUESTION 5:

California is not the only state currently experiencing drought. What other states should we be tracking for water usage and regulatory compliance?

As of July 1st, 40 percent of the U.S. is in a state of drought and more than 70 percent of the West, from the Rockies to the West coast. Nearly 100 percent of California and Nevada are in a state of drought. If you have locations anywhere in the western part of the country we recommend reaching out to that location’s local water board for information on any regulations or expected mandates that are being put in place.

QUESTION 6:

How can companies understand the new California water fines and regulations that were recently implemented?

A good reference point for understanding the new California laws is the California Water Resource control board website. There are lists, by supplier, outlining what their reduction target is. We also suggest going to your local water district to see how they are enforcing these restrictions. One thing to keep in mind is there is not a standardized approach for meeting these reductions; each water district has their own enforcements in place.

Watch “Tap into Water Saving Opportunities” on demand to learn more about the current challenges facing water and how to mitigate those costs. Or contact us to speak with an Ecova team member.

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