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 Mahaffey, 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.

5 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’?

    1. 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.

  2. 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!

    1. 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

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