Balancing water supply and demand is a perennial problem for California. With its hot dry deserts, coastal shoreline, and snow-capped peaks, it is a mosaic of diverse climates and geographies – and its varying water needs and resources are a direct reflection and consequence of this diversity. The state has always been America’s leader on environmental policy, and water is no exception. We take a look at the 2018 California water conservation legislation and reveal why customer engagement is going to be key to California water suppliers’ success in meeting their new targets.

2018 water conservation legislation – what we know

In 2018, two laws were passed to aid the state of California in making water conservation a way of life. Together, Senate Bill (SB) and Assembly Bill (AB) 1668 outline certain roles and actions to be carried out by the California Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resource Control Board together with the state’s water suppliers.

The new laws follow 2009’s SB X7-7 Water Conservation Act that required the state to achieve a 20% reduction in urban per capita water use by December 31, 2020. Urban water suppliers were required to calculate their baseline water use and set water use targets for the years 2015 and 2020 based on guidance from the Department of Water Resources (DWR).

The ‘Make Water Conservation a California Way of Life’ bills signed by Governor Brown on May 31, 2018, cover urban and agricultural water conservation and drought planning, and affect urban water suppliers, agricultural water suppliers, and small water systems and rural communities.

At present the legislation’s indoor residential use standards are defined as follows:

  • 55 gallons Per Capita Per Day (GPCD) until January 1st, 2025;
  • The greater of 52.5 GPCD or a standard recommended by DWR and the State Water Board for the 2025 standard from January 1st, 2025, through December 31st, 2029;
  • The greater of 50 GPCD or a standard recommended by DWR and the State Water Board for the 2030 standard after January 1st, 2030;

It should be noted that the State Water Board might recommend different indoor residential use standards from the ones provided in the current legislation, and such recommendations are due to the Legislature by January 1st, 2021.

Who do the new standards apply to?

An urban retail water supplier is defined as a water supplier, either publicly or privately owned, that directly provides potable municipal water to more than 3,000 end-users or that supplies more than 3,000 acre-feet of potable water annually at retail for municipal purposes.

What do the standards mean for water suppliers?

  • Water agencies are required to calculate a water efficiency standard for their entire service area annually – based on indoor residential water use; outdoor water use; and commercial, industrial, and institutional irrigation.
  • In addition to the 55-gallon standard, targets for outdoor water use and water loss due to leaks will also be determined. These three standards will be used to represent the overall water efficiency standards for each urban water provider.
  • The State Water Board may issue the following types of orders on a supplier not meeting its water use objectives: Information order (11/2023 on); Written warning notice (11/2024 on); Conservation order (11/2025 on); Penalties for violating Water Board orders (11/2027).
  • The State Water Board may fine water suppliers up to $10,000 per day1 if the supplier does not meet its cumulative standard.
  • The targets will be set for an entire service area and are scheduled to go into effect in June 2023.
  • The first annual reports are due by November 1, 2023, and by November 1 every year thereafter.

What does this mean for individual customers/households in California?

  • The new standards don’t apply to individuals or households – the standard of 55 gallons per person/per day for indoor residential water use is not intended as an enforceable standard for individuals
  • Individuals will not be responsible for the State Water Resources Control Board fines.
  • As has been miss-reported, there are no specific state-wide laws that require individual households to meet any specific targets.

The time to start working towards the new targets is now

The new legislation is the first of its kind in the U.S.A., and as such, California’s water suppliers have their work cut out. Californian homes have only one water meter, and these provide no information about where water is used or for what purpose. The 55-gallon limit per person is merely an aspirational target meant to motivate customers to conserve water.

So how will California’s water suppliers reduce residential consumption? The solution lies in increasing customer engagement, discovering more about individual households and their water usage, and delivering personalized water consumption tips and recommendations for products and services that drive efficiency.

Introducing Advizzo’s customer engagement solutions

Advizzo is a global specialist in customer engagement solutions for water and utility companies. We work with water and energy companies throughout the world to help reduce residential consumption using data science and behavioral science techniques combined with a robust customer engagement platform.

How does it work?

  • We combine and analyze data to get a clearer picture of a household’s water consumption.
  • We send customers personalized water reports that compare their usage with households of a similar demographic.
  • We provide customers with bespoke tips based on their usage, designed to help them reduce their consumption and their bills.
  • We engage with customers on our platform and encourage the completion of audits and surveys to acquire additional data, which enables us to further refine our communications.

What results do we achieve?

By changing consumer habits we have helped utility companies save on average 3% on energy and water consumption.

Our recent annual survey of water and utility customers that are part of an Advizzo customer engagement program revealed:

  • Increased customer engagement:
    90% of households completed our online survey.
    90% of respondents recalled receiving the Home Report.
    37% said they’d gone as far as sharing their Reports with family and friends.
  • Reduced consumption:
    65% changed their behavior in order to reduce electricity and water consumption.
    87% of respondents said that as a result of our Home Reports, they had taken steps to reduce their energy and water consumption.
    47% had seen a reduction in energy and water consumption in their next bill.

Don’t delay!

Unfortunately, successful customer engagement that delivers results doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why California-based water suppliers need to start their customer engagement programs now – in order to see results and avoid fines in 2022. The next 12 months provide the perfect opportunity to pilot customer engagement programs and refine them in order to drive improved results by the time the new legislation comes into effect.

Let us work with you to understand your customers, data, and objectives. Together will then create a bespoke customer engagement program that successfully reduces water consumption across your residential consumer base – helping you increase customer engagement and satisfaction, reduce consumption, and achieve your targets going forward.

Visit this page for more information on our water and energy saving solution for utilities