V. Demand Management Options
A. Public Education for Voluntary Reduction
The goal of a good public education program is to generate an appropriate level of public awareness that results in the desired participation. They stress long-term management solutions, general awareness of water issues, and the recognition that Peoria is a desert city with a desert's limited supply of water. A demand reduction response in this category would provide extra funds made available for heightened awareness of drought and behavior modification to conserve water above and beyond our normal marketing, advertising efforts and public outreach events.
B. Increase Plumbing Retrofit and Rebate Programs
Once citizens are convinced of the need to save water, residential retrofit is one of the most practical and effective approaches in providing them with "how-to" information on altering their water use habits. At the same time, it provides them with the technology to save water with the least impact on their lifestyle. The greatest water savings can be achieved by combining the use of conservation devices with behavioral changes since these two actions tend to reinforce each other.
Also, allowing more customers to apply for xeriscape or hot water re-circulator rebates coinciding with a drought surcharge would reward those customers who may not have been eligible or able before to convert their lawn to xeriscape or install a hot water recirculator. More customers might choose to install a xeriscape or hot water re-circulator if the rebate dollar amount were doubled, or if the commercial, multi-family housing units, or industrial user were eligible for rebates.
Future programs must focus on in-home leak repair, complete replacement of toilets, and promotion of other water-using appliances such as water efficient washing machines and landscape timers. Programs to persuade the public to routinely check toilets for leakage might be worth pursuing, even as often as every three months. Incentives for installation of water efficient washing machines, landscape timers and other appliances might also be appropriate during drought.
C. Municipal Use Restrictions
One drought condition priority will be the evaluation of all city, county, state, and federal government water use in the service area. It is necessary to pursue an aggressive and publicly visible municipal use restriction program to convince the public that the impacts of drought are being handled equitably within the public sector. The City must visibly lead by example.
There is no faster way to undermine the effectiveness of a water demand reduction program than to allow flagrant and visible water waste in public facilities. The public sector strategy for controlling municipal use is to at a minimum strictly follow restrictions requested of consumers. The amount of municipal water use is relatively small. Restrictions are not expected to produce a large volume of savings. However, it is essential that steps be taken to establish the City as a leader in the drought effort, not merely a regulator of others' use of water.
Major water-using departments, divisions, and functions will be encouraged and assisted in developing drought responses based on this plan.
D. Outdoor Use Restrictions and Bans
Outdoor water use is a significant portion of everyday consumption in Peoria. Water consumption increases as much as 40 to 60 percent from March through October due to seasonal heat and cooling needs, and to a prolonged growing season in the desert environment. Drought certainly would have much more severe impact during these months, making restrictions and outright bans on outdoor water use of great impact.
Effective restrictions include time-of-day watering and odd/even lawn watering restrictions based on house numbering, or a combination of the two. In some California communities complete bans on all outdoor water use have been implemented. The potential loss of costly landscaping, and the impact to quality-of-life make complete bans an extreme measure.
Outdoor use restrictions help to reduce peak demand in the water treatment system, and improve water service pressure on maximum need days. The negative side of outdoor water use restrictions is that effectiveness diminishes over time, and enforcement is difficult and expensive. Peer pressure and citizen reports can help with enforcement, however, this can also have a negative "rat on your neighbor" effect.
In spite of enforcement difficulties, outdoor water use restrictions must be considered because of their potential benefits for early implementation and the water savings that can be derived. Implementation would require the commitment of resources to monitor violators and enforce restrictions. An appeal process is also necessary.
E. Water Theft Prevention
By Drought Stage Two (Water Alert), or earlier, an aggressive theft prevention program should be in the field to assist in maintaining full metering of fire hydrant use, and to evaluate appropriate field or construction water use. Again, nothing undercuts City credibility faster than the perception that special classes of users -- in this case developers -- are getting preferential treatment.
F. Pricing Policies
An important concern created by a drought situation is the negative impact on revenues as a result of successful demand reduction. Such drops in revenue come at a time when operational expenses tend to increase. The establishment of financial systems to allow for fines, surcharges, or other measures to support programs such as extensive public education and the acquisition or development of new water supplies are required.
Charges for water consumption have significant influence on the amount of water consumed. If the drought condition continues to the point that voluntary conservation is not sufficient, the City would be forced to use alternative means to reduce water use during the critical period. The usual response in cities all across the country has been some form of rationing. There are various rationing plans to consider.
The surcharge amount would be determined at a drought stage based on the cost of services to implement water saving programs or acquisition costs necessary to meet reasonable water delivery demands. In Drought Stage Four, Water Emergency, the surcharge would be raised above revenue requirements specifically as a strong disincentive for use, until demand matches supply.
G. Moratorium on New Water Connections
Curtailing water demand by curtailing growth is a controversial option, but one that must be considered should the drought situation require extreme measures. If water supply status deteriorates and existing customers become impacted, it is inequitable to expect existing customers to make painful cuts in water use while new users are being added. This is a difficult issue since new users represent economic growth, both for Utilities Department and the City as a whole.
H. Physical Rationing and Mandatory Reductions
Sometimes a drought surcharge is used to ration water use economically. Price rationing, offers the consumer more flexibility in quality-of-life issues and has less impact on the revenue stream of the utility which has normal or higher-than-normal operational expenses during a drought.
Key elements of a successful rationing program are that:
(1) the resources and the hardships are shared as equitably as possible, and
(2) that customers are kept informed about the status of the shortage. However, allocation disagreements are to be expected and procedures to handle valid exceptions and variances need to be part of the rationing program. Pertinent information regarding water use and supply must be published and disseminated at least weekly to continually reaffirm customer commitment.
Physical rationing programs are generally patterned after one of these basic allocation plans: percentage reduction and specific use bans. To better demonstrate the difficulty and expense which would be created by choosing to implement physical rationing for a utility the size of Peoria the various physical rationing plans are defined:
A percentage reduction assigns customers a consumption reduction goal, depending on water use, as a percentage of the consumption level used in a similar billing period during a normal season. Specific use bans are a rationing alternative; however, they do not increase or change the billing calculations. Instead they are imposed primarily through public education and enforcement. Specific use bans, such as lawn watering only every other day, prohibition on swimming pool filling, and prohibition on use of water features can be effective. Bans generate awareness and prioritizing of water use and they establish a sense of equity in the community.