For The Answer
Saturday, February 15, 2003
Submitted by Calvin Finch, Ph.D., Manager, Conservation Division, Water Resources & Conservation Department, SAWS, and Horticulturist
San Antonio Water System needs a few good volunteer groups to participate in the Community Conservation Challenge program. The idea is that a group sets a water use reduction goal and is rewarded with cash for a group project if the group achieves the goal. Last year, five groups, three neighborhoods, and two volunteer groups set goals of 5 to 10 percent. This year, SAWS would like 20 groups to participate. You set your goal and SAWS will compare water use of the group participants for a five-month period from April 1 through August 30 or May 1 through September 30 this year to the same period averaged over the last three years. The test is to see if groups can organize themselves, set their own water conservation goals, and achieve the goals.
The cash awards set up is rather complex but can be worthwhile if your group has a goal where a few thousand dollars would help.
· The first award goes to every group that meets their goal. If your goal is 10 percent water use reduction and you have 100 participants in your group, the award after five months would be $1 times the 10 (for the percentage) times the number of SAWS ratepayers in the group, 100. So, $1 x 10 x 100 would be $1000.
· One of the best ways to reduce water use is to replace your high-flow toilet with a low-flow model. If your neighborhood or the homes of the ratepayers in your group have homes older than 1992, many probably still have high-flow toilets. SAWS will give those folks low-flow toilets and $25 to the group for each one that is exchanged—up to two toilets per address if they still have “high flows”. In many groups of 100 it would be easy to fund 100 high-flow toilets. That would mean another $2500 for the group.
· Every month of the six months of the Community Conservation Challenge, SAWS will also award a special cash award to the group that reduces water use by the highest percentage. If your group put in the low-flow toilets and decided to eliminate lawn watering one weak during the month, it could easily save 20% of the water it used during the base period. If 20% were the best performance of all groups competing that month (10 minimum), the group would receive another $2000 ($1 x 20 [percentage] x 100 [ratepayers]).
· Individuals in groups that achieve their goal over the five-month period selected also receive a $10 rebate on their SAWS bill. Or they may choose to donate their $10 to Project Agua, a fund to help low income customers pay their water bill one time during a financial crisis.
In the example described in this article, the group would receive $5500 for a group project. The projects can be anything that the group designates. Some obvious projects are clubhouse repairs for neighborhoods; uniforms for school bands or youth athletic teams; xeriscape landscaping for church, school, or neighborhood common areas; and educational trips for a senior or youth group. The larger the number in a group, the larger the rewards, but it is also more difficult to keep everyone conserving for the full five-month period with a large group.
There is some paperwork involved, including pre-registering all participants and an eligible check by SAWS on the low-flow toilet giveaway but, if you have a cause that needs some funding and believe in water conservation, this may be the project for you. To explore the option, call project coordinators Ed Wilcut (704-7531) or Janie Guzman (704-7543) to arrange a presentation and a discussion. SAWS can give you advice on how to organize and describe how much water is saved by various conservation tactics. In 2002 the two most successful groups saved 17 and 24 percent, respectively. They used their neighborhood newsletter to keep in touch with their participants. One volunteer group partnered with a radio station and a retail nursery to recruit ratepayers. Water conservation is a good cause and SAWS will learn from the experiment, if you need cash for a group project, consider participating in the 2003 Community Conservation Challenge.