Getting personal about water use

Pilot program’s water use reports offer customers insights on efficiency.

September 9, 2016 | By: Dana Strongin

We realize it’s easy to say changing a yard can make it more beautiful and still use less water. It’s not so easy to explain how, yet our customers prove there are plenty of appealing options.

Residents throughout our service area have achieved water-efficient results when they put beautiful, low-water landscape ideas into action — everything from native plants to entertaining spaces to vegetable gardens.

This summer, homeowners in the Park Hill area are receiving personalized outdoor water use reports as part of a pilot program that 9News anchor Kyle Clark featured in June.

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Ben Dinsmore and his wife, Tracy, and son, Soren, ditched their front lawn in favor of a vegetable garden after moving to Park Hill two years ago.

They are learning how their water use compares with what is considered efficient, as well as with neighbors who have similar-sized yards.

Denver Water’s conservation department decided to focus on the Park Hill neighborhood because homeowners there are using more water on landscapes than other neighborhoods in its service area. More than 40 percent of the homes are exceeding the efficiency target of 12 gallons per irrigated square foot annually.

The program tests homeowners’ response to individualized feedback on water use.

“This is taking Use Only What You Need to the next level by providing customers with customized information about the water needs of their property,” said Mark Cassalia, Denver Water conservation specialist.

“This isn’t just about focusing on customers using too much water,” said Phill Segura, a conservation analyst who helped develop the pilot program. “The great thing about this effort is that a lot of the customers receiving the letters are getting a pat on the back, because we’re able to show them they’re using water efficiently. We want to celebrate that great work.”

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Dinsmore’s raised garden beds are proof that veggies can be both beautiful and bountiful.

While a detailed evaluation of the program’s impact on behavior change will begin in January, Cassalia said they’ve learned from talking with customers in the program that the letters help them understand how much they should be watering their lawns.

In addition, Denver Water is highlighting homeowners with inspiring yards who use water efficiently. Our Water Savers cruised the streets last summer in search of customer landscapes that are beautiful, functional and water-use efficient — everything we thought anyone could want. We enjoyed some extra delight when we learned that one of our favorites belonged to a fellow Denver Water employee, Ben Dinsmore, a GIS technician.

The conservation team plans to continue this pilot and test additional strategies in 2017 to advance Denver Water’s understanding about effective ways to help customers use water efficiently.

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