California American Water (Cal Am) was featured in the article, “Drought and Supply Limits Drive Sustainability Initiatives,” published in the March edition of the American Water Works Association’s Opflow. The article highlights Cal Am’s water conservation and sustainability efforts on behalf of the more than 650,000 people served by the utility, as well as lessons learned during the recent California drought.
Emphasizing the impact of overdrafting Mother Nature, Cal Am’s Manager of Field Operations Patrick Pilz said, “We take more water out than rain and snowfall replenishes, and we see the resulting effects in the loss of natural groundwater storage and water quality issues.”
The article describes several strategies Cal Am has employed to encourage customers to conserve water, including the introduction of various rate structures, indoor efficiency retrofits, and outdoor water-use restrictions. The utility also incorporated new technology to track water use such as geospatial mapping to refine targeting efforts. Cal Am also implemented pilot programs that feature advanced metering with an integrated system of smart meters, communication networks, and data management systems. In addition to using technology, Cal Am has provided water efficiency coaching for nonresidential customers and public education and stewardship training for customers, children, and landscaping companies. The success of these strategies is evident in Cal Am’s Monterey service area, which “has routinely been among California’s top-performing areas for low water use.”
In keeping with the various lessons learned, such as the value of forming partnerships with other water utilities to gain knowledge and share experiences, Cal Am recognized the importance of continuing to evaluate and improve its conservation efforts. Some of the changes in the works include focusing on landscaping retrofits since indoor retrofits are approaching saturation; retrofitting rental units with low-flow fixtures; continually refreshing conservation messages based on the results of focus groups conducted with customers; and working to increase water supply sustainability using best practices in integrated water resource management.