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Water conservation is more than a drop in the bucket

Los Altos homeowners reduced their water consumption by nearly one-third following the drought of 2008, according to the California Water Service Company.

Cal Water officials must now depend on those water-saving habits to continue if they hope to meet impending mandates on efficiency set by the state.

Under the 2009 Senate Bill X7-7, urban water suppliers – including Cal Water, which services 500,000 customers including 18,000 households in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View – are required to increase efficiency to adhere to a per-person water reduction of at least 10 percent by December 2015 and 20 percent by December 2020.

Cal Water measurements for 2011 reveal that Los Altos residents used 177 gallons of water per capita per day on average – far below the community’s 241 gallons per capita per day average for 1998 through 2008. Although the figure is below the state’s recommended goal of 193 gallons per person by 2020, Cal Water Conservation Manager Ken Jenkins warned that historical water consumption trends indicate that a demand rebound could be in the forecast.

“You typically see a bottoming out after three to four years, and then usage goes back to normal until the next drought,” he said of the cycle following a drought. “What’s different this time is that we’re trying to make conservation programs long term.”

More than half of all water consumed in Cal Water’s service area is used outdoors, and the company offers numerous programs to curb use. Initiatives include waterwise house calls that identify ways to reduce consumption, a landscape rebate program that rewards homeowners who convert turf to low-water plants and a sprinkler nozzle replacement program that provides up to 25 free low-flow devices per household.

Although these programs offer immediate financial benefits, Jenkins encouraged customers to put their actions in context.

“While rates and water bills are important things to think of … the more we can get reductions in water use, the more reliable we can make our system,” he said.

For more information, visit calwater.com/conservation/index.php.

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