Local Agencies Find Innovative Ways to Reduce Use

As the drought continues its grip, local water agencies are using innovative ways to stretch supplies and improve reliability for the cities, farms and businesses they serve.

Examples of innovation abound:

Recycled water fill stations: Dublin San Ramon Services District is turning heads with its innovative recycled water fill station for residents. Customers can drive up and fill containers with recycled water – at no cost – for use on landscaping. There are more than 400 regular customers, and they are already asking if it will continue even after the drought is over. These customers are in effect new disciples for recycled water. More information is here.

Putting technology in customers’ hands: Lots of agencies are using software such as “WaterSmart” that allows consumers to compare their household’s water use with similar homes. Pilot projects by East Bay MUD, Irvine Ranch Water District and El Dorado Irrigation District have been very successful and have led to significant reductions in water use.

In this era of smartphones, agencies also are using free mobile “apps” that allow customers to take a photo of water waste and report to the water district. The apps are proving extremely popular.

Advanced water purification: Even before the drought, agencies have been taking water recycling to the next level. Orange County Water District has been doing it with the Groundwater Replenishment System, and now Santa Clara Valley Water District has opened the largest advanced water purification center of its kind in Silicon Valley. These state of the art facilities receive treated effluent and purify it to very high quality using processes such as microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet disinfection.

West Basin Municipal Water District produces five types of “designer” recycled water, ranging from irrigation water to indirect drinking water for groundwater replenishment.

Water School: Another innovation in Santa Cruz is actually old school. The City – which has been in mandatory water rationing since May 1 with strict water allotments per household and steep penalties for going over – has instituted “water school,” a two-hour water conservation class similar to traffic school that lets violators reduce their fines. The waiting list is two months long.

Innovative rate structures: Many water agencies are adopting innovative approaches to water rates that encourage water conservation and help achieve long-term reductions in water use. Examples include Eastern Municipal Water District and Irvine Ranch Water District.