Plan includes conservation fund

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All five Board of Public Utilities members supported a proposed minimal monthly charge for a conservation fund. Staff proposed $1 per household, which would net $100,000 a year.

Conservation Coordinator Christine Chavez believes that the combination of a tiered consumption rate and a strong educational component would address board member Chris Ortega’s concern that many people seem to be apathetic about conservation.

“I really think that’s the one huge benefit of having a tiered water rate. You’re going to have people paying a little more attention to what they’re paying in those peak months,” Chavez said.

“And if they’re paying more, then it may be the best time to educate them about, you can still have this, but how can we get you down into this lower tier? What technologies or practices can help keep you from jumping over into this next tier?

“We’re confident that most people can stay within that 7,000 gallon tier or even bring their usage back within that tier with the right tools. And that’s what that conservation tool is going to be dedicated to, is helping people stay within that tier in the summer months.”

The board was concerned that $100,000 was not enough, and asked Chavez to return with proposed budgets for both a $1 charge and a $2 charge.

Board member Kevin Anderson supported using conservation funds to provide incentives rather that just education, perhaps modeled after Austin’s program to offer incentives to residents who replace turf with more sustainable greenscapes.

Deputy Utilities Manager for Finance and Administration Robert Westervelt felt that the department does not have sufficient staff or money to sustain an incentive program.
-Arin McKenna