NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

CITIES REWARD 'LIFESTYLE' THAT CONSERVES WATER

July 20, 2006

More cities are creating or expanding programs that give residents and businesses rebates or utility-bill credits for installing grass-free lawns or toilets, washing machines and showers that use less water.

Rebate programs have grown substantially" because of expanding drought conditions and population increases, says Greg Kail of the American Water Works Association, a trade group.

Examples:

  • This month, Albuquerque increased its water-bill credit for converting grass lawns to low-water-use "Xeriscapes" from 40 cents to 60 cents for each square foot. Xeriscape is landscaping that uses native plants that require little water.
  • Albuquerque also offers credits to residents who reuse rainwater or install water-saving toilets, washers, dishwashers, showerheads and sprinkler timers; since the city first offered credits in 1995, about 100 billion gallons of water have been saved -- enough to supply the city for three years.
  • Santa Cruz, Calif., this spring began sending water conservation staffers to homes at residents' request to assess usage and recommend water-saving changes; the city pays $75 to residents who buy low-flow toilets and $100 to those who buy water-efficient washing machines.
  • In Charlottesville, Va., residents can get $100 rebates for replacing toilets with more efficient models. Bill Dyer, director of the city's utility billing office, says it also has given away thousands of kits that include faucet aerators, dye tablets that detect toilet leaks, garden hose nozzles and repair kits and outdoor watering gauges.

Observers say cities are trying other ways to conserve water, including watering restrictions and encouraging the reuse of water in manufacturing and to irrigate golf courses.

For example, El Paso plans to build the world's largest inland desalination plant, which would turn previously unusable brackish groundwater into 27.5 million gallons of fresh water daily.

Source: Judy Keen, "Cities reward 'lifestyle' that conserves water; Low-flow toilets, no-grass lawns now earn rebates," USA Today, July 20, 2006.

 

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