Efficiency is the new conservation

After a successful 10-year conservation plan, our focus turns to water efficiency. Here’s a look at what that means.

January 11, 2018 | By: Jessica Kirk, Kim Unger

From bright orange billboards with missing letters to half-naked people sporting sandwich boards proclaiming “Use Only What You Need,” if you’ve lived in the Denver metro area over the past decade, chances are you came in touch with Denver Water’s popular ad campaign.

That campaign was part of Denver Water’s 10-year conservation plan that wrapped up in 2016, designed to capture water savings following the 2002 drought. And with conservation programs for every type of customer, the plan was a success. Customers have been meeting the city-wide reduction goal of 22 percent.

Denver Water employee replacing a showerhead
John Gebhart, Denver Water efficiency specialist, replaces a customer’s showerhead with a WaterSense-labeled model that will save considerable amounts of water without sacrificing performance.

But that doesn’t mean we’re done. Denver Water will be introducing a new water efficiency plan in 2018, which provides a five-year roadmap to help ensure those savings are permanent, and to help customers understand not only how much water they use in their homes and businesses, but also how they can meet their individual water needs in the most efficient ways.

Here are three things you need to know about the plan:

  1. The next five years are about efficiency (not conservation and reduction).

The dictionary definition of efficient is being productive, without waste. Water-use efficiency is a relatively new model for water utilities.

“Traditional water conservation efforts have focused on water restrictions and reductions,” said Jeff Tejral, manager of conservation at Denver Water. “Efficiency focuses on actions that minimize water waste, without sacrificing quality of life, or livability.”

  1. Benchmarks for efficient indoor and outdoor efficient water use provide direction for customers.

Denver Water worked with a group of community stakeholders to develop voluntary efficiency targets. Together, they determined that 40 gallons per person per day is an efficient indoor water use benchmark— a goal that 49 percent of Denver Water single family residential customers currently achieve.

The plan also identifies a benchmark for outdoor water use of 12 gallons per square foot of landscape annually. Currently, 65 percent of single family residential customers are at or below this level.

These benchmarks will be used to help Denver Water work with customers who have the most potential to improve water efficiency by providing specific programs and recommendations.

  1. It’s personal.

According to Tejral, for a water efficiency plan to really work, everyone needs to know how much water they use and where they use it.

“Our hope through this shift in focus from conservation to efficiency is that customers will be able to have a much better understanding of the water they use, and as a result, be able to reduce the amount of water that’s wasted overall,” he said.

The Denver Board of Water Commissioners formally adopted the Water Efficiency Plan on Nov. 8, 2017. Outreach efforts to help customers understand where they are in relation to the benchmarks will begin in 2018.

Are you an efficient water user? Graphic.

20 thoughts on “Efficiency is the new conservation”

  1. Great new slogan choice. I’m all for it. Now, how do you go about promoting and advertising ‘Efficiency’?

  2. Because water use is personal we’ll be communicating with individual customers to promote the efficiency message with customized mailers tailored to where and how they can become a more efficient user. We’ll then be celebrating efficient water users and sharing their stories right here on TAP and promoting through social and traditional media. Tune in for that and additional efficiency programs, messages and more.

  3. Fantastic! Wonderful that Denver Water is doing such a great job helping its customers conserve water. Surely then destroying our wild places by building bigger dams and inter-mountain diversions is off the table. Excellent! We love the outdoors and want Denver Water to double down on conservation. Leave Gross Reservoir as is – no need to use 20th century dam building when you have 21st century solutions to help customers use less water. Leave our precious wild places as they are – no dams! no bigger reservoirs!

  4. Hello Jennie, thank you for your comment. The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is a major part of Denver Water’s long-term plan to deliver safe, reliable water to the people we serve now and into the future. The project is part of our multi-pronged approach that includes conservation, reuse and responsibly sourcing new supply.

    While we are committed to promoting water efficiency, those efforts alone won’t be enough to cover the challenges we face, including a growing population, warming climate, water collection system imbalance and vulnerability, among others. We must have an “all of the above” approach, as any one of these strategies in isolation won’t give us the flexibility we need to meet future needs.

    The project will take unprecedented steps to enhance watersheds and protect the communities within them, which is why the project has earned the support of major environmental groups like Colorado Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, Western Resource Advocates and others.

    By completing the expansion of Gross Reservoir, we can meet our water needs while also providing – according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment – a “net environmental benefit” for our state. For more information visit http://www.grossreservoir.org

  5. Hi Elaine, I reached out to our customer care team and was told you should have received one today. Please let us know if this is not the case or if there’s anything else we can help with.

  6. when we see the city of Denver wasting water in green spaces and we see water running down the street it makes me wonder if the city is exempt from any watering rules.

  7. With more than 200 city parks used by the public on a daily basis, issues that cause water waste, like broken sprinkler heads, are bound to occur and may not be identified right away. We can all help by serving as an extra set of eyes. Call 3-1-1 to report issues in Denver parks.

  8. I’m all for conservation and efficiency. I never hear or see anyone address the retail spaces or commercial properties that do not adjust their watering patterns. Driving up and down Wadsworth, I frequently see grass being watered during a rain storm. It’s time to take this issue seriously…not just homeowners doing their part but everyone being respectful of water.

  9. During the drought in 2002 you gave shower timers out to customers. Mine eventually stopped working…moisture in the sand.

    Any chance of reviving that giveaway?I have a teenage grandson and a timer would be great for his showering times. From one shower a week before age 13 he is up to one per day now.

    Keep up the good work…I am working hard to reduce my garden watering. Too much watering actually shortens plant life.

  10. Denver water ‘changed’ the structure of the billing…..elliminating the BIG bills for the BIG users. they pushed this through under the guise of ‘helping’ the little guy conserve. 4 categories got moved to 3 and the only customers who WON….were the BIG properties who used tons of water in their swimming pools and large outdoor watering. Thanks….for being jerks!!!!

  11. Here’s more on the rate structure change in 2015: https://denverwatertap.org/2015/12/16/your-water-bill-different-path-same-goals/

    The old rate structure was been in place for 20 years, and needed to be updated to reflect current water use habits (More than 90% of our customers were using water in the first and second tiers meaning we were no longer sending a strong conservation message as the tiers were designed to do) and provide a buffer for more frequent extreme weather fluctuations. Denver Water carefully created a new rate structure to begin to shift our revenue from such a heavy reliance on usage to a more stable fixed fee. Our new rate structure provides a more secure source of the revenue we need to continue to deliver safe, reliable water to our customers. These more stable revenues have allowed us to keep rate increases smaller, and more consistent in light of the unpredictable weather.

    It’s important to know that higher water users will always pay higher bills than lower water consumers. Our rate structure continues to be, “the more you use, the more you pay.”

  12. The outdoor efficiency report you just sent is fantastic. Denver Trout Unlimited will be pushing out this message to our members. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. With the new focus will conservation programs like replacement rebates and Zeroscaping help be eliminated?

  13. The outdoor water efficiency report is ideal!!! Just please remember to provide it monthly, perhaps sending it out about the same time as the water bill.

  14. Please look into resurrected idea of combo grass & clover lawns! Green sites say mini/microclover sowed into a grass lawn won’t overtake the grass, makes take 1/2 or less water (!) after it sprouts, eliminates need for fertilizer (pulls nitrogen from air which helps grass), or herbicides (in fact herbicide’ll kill it), halves mowing frequency, doesn’t yellow exposed to canine urine, likes zone 5. My condos have huge water bill, would trust your endorsement when lawn co (standing to lose $ after yr 1 thatch sow) pooh-poohs the idea. Please! google USDA opinion of clover. Thanks

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