Executive Summary for November 30th

For an overview of the latest news on the California drought, we’ve organized the most recent developments in a curated summary, including the most important stories, analysis and data. Our goal is to keep you informed of the day’s most significant events in the field.

Published on Nov. 30, 2015 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

How Much Will Those Rebates Really Save?

When water agencies offer rebates for low-flow fixtures and appliances, there are always two main motivations to sign up: saving water is just the right thing to do, and it will also save money.

But how much money?

A Silicon Valley company has entered the fray with a website to help answer that confusing question. The WaterGenuis website, developed by the Oakland firm BKi, offers a simple interface that allows users to enter their city and get a graphical representation of how much they will save in water and money by choosing different water conservation rebates.

For example, if you’re a resident of San Jose you could save nearly $300 per year on your water bills by adopting all available conservation rebates. The results not only tell you which aspects of residential living use the most water (hint: that green carpet in your yard) but also helps reveal payback time for different choices.

Most rebates don’t cover the entire cost of replacing an appliance. And it often depends on which toilet, for example, the homeowner chooses to buy. The WaterGenius website tells us that a low-flow toilet will save $44 per year in San Jose. From there, it’s easy to back out of the equation and deduce that a toilet that costs $100 out of pocket (after the rebate) will pay off in two years.

“It’s a very different economic discussion depending on where you are,” Brian Gitt, president and CEO of BKi, told GreenBiz. “Most homeowners don’t know which rebates are available to help.”

The website was originally developed to help two large Silicon Valley employers, VMware and eBay, assist their employees with water conservation. The two companies adopted a number of water-saving measures on their campuses, and wanted to encourage employees to do the same at home. WaterGenius helped employees decide what actions to take.

BKi originally planned to develop WaterGenius as a smartphone app, but that hasn’t happened yet. It also still doesn’t cover every community in California.

Nevertheless, it’s a good example of how a simple software solution can help water users make smart choices.

New Water Drought Regulations Up for Discussion

The State Water Resources Control Board will vote on Tuesday whether to renew part of its drought emergency regulations.

The emergency rules give the agency powers to demand certain water-consumption data from those who have rights to divert water from streams across the state. The regulations are set to expire on Dec. 12.

The move is largely a housekeeping action in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent declaration to extend the state’s drought emergency for another year.

However, the water board is also tightening the language of its regulation to clarify that it can impose an information order, subject to fines and potential loss of water rights, if a water diverter fails an investigation or curtailment order. The intent is to put more heat on water diverters that ignored orders to provide information over the past year.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 9 a.m. in Sacramento.

Top image: How much money will that rebate for a water-conserving toilet really save you? The new watergenius.com website has the answer, at least for some California communities. (Associated Press photo via PRNewsFoto)

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