Empower Customers, Save Water

(The following column appeared in the Santa Clarita Valley Signal’s August 11 edition.)

Empowerment. It’s a word not often thrown around when it comes to water conservation.

But it’s exactly the approach taken by Newhall County Water District to cut its overall water use.

By now, everyone knows we’re in a drought. Most also know California residents must cut water use by an average 25 percent (this number ranges from 24 to 32 percent in the Santa Clarita Valley).

But the pathways to achieving this success are numerous.

Some outside our region have taken a “policing” approach, hiring “water cops” and ticketing customers, as if their homes were cars parked at expired meters.

This approach may work in some communities, and some consider it the essence of local control.

But curtailing personal freedom is not the Santa Clarita Valley way, and it certainly doesn’t reflect NCWD’s water conservation philosophy.

We are about empowerment. For NCWD, this means giving customers a water-use target — and giving them the resources to make the best water-saving decisions for their homes.

When customers are at or below their customized target, they can continue to make personal choices as to how they use their water wisely. In line with this approach, NCWD also declined to reduce watering days from three days to two days a week, leaving more flexibility for our customers.

This fair, customer-focused approach has helped NCWD customers save an average of 32 percent for the months of May, June and July, well above the 28 percent water use reduction mandated by the state.

While a bit of wet weather helped in May and July, NCWD is very clear; this success is largely the result of our customers taking action.

In short, empowering customers to save water is working.

Still, certain statewide regulations must be enforced. NCWD is targeting chronic water-wasters and issuing violation notices — or even fines — to the most egregious offenders, but only when necessary.

In our service territory, such irresponsible folks are by far the exception and not the rule.

In fact, our customers have let their lawns go brown, replaced turf with California-native plants, and invested voluntarily in water technology to save extraordinary amounts of water.

The Tesoro del Valle HOA is one great example of customers making water-wise decisions. This 1,077-home community took advantage of rebates and resources offered by NCWD recently to invest in water-saving technology.

Infrared cameras and GPS technology to measure water distribution may seem more like science fiction than irrigation, but the results are no fantasy.

In fact, after six to eight months, this system has cut the community’s water use by 40 percent.

The HOA also reports a significant reduction in water costs, year-to-date.

This is just one example of many large and small investments being made by customers across the district. We are pleased with how residents and businesses are responding to this serious call for conservation, and NCWD plans to continue to empower customers to help us all meet challenging state water conservation mandates.

In the meantime, we all need to continue making water-wise decisions. Kudos to our customers and keep up the good work!

B.J. Atkins and Maria Gutzeit are president and vice president, respectively, of the Newhall County Water District Board of Directors.