Many critics of the $429 million “Recharge Fresno” water plan passed by the Fresno City Council on Thursday night said it was poorly thought out because it didn’t address conservation.
It didn’t address conservation because it is an infrastructure and financing plan.
The project includes a water treatment plant, pipes and ponding basins, enabling it to replenish Fresno’s depleted and increasingly contaminated aquifer with the city’s water allocations from in the San Joaquin and Kings rivers. Ratepayers then pay for these much-needed improvements with higher water rates.
But anyone who says that city leaders aren’t focused on water conservation would be wrong.
On Nov. 6, the City Council unanimously passed the Water Conservation Act, which is intended to, as The Bee’s George Hostetter wrote, “get Fresnans on the water-saving bandwagon.”
The act provides $250,000 annually in customer rebates for the purchase of water-conserving devices. One example is a $50 rebate for a new qualifying High Efficiency Toilet (HET) of 1.28 gallons per flush or less. For a qualifying list of toilets, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/products/toilets.htm.
Perhaps the best city program is its free evaluation of water efficiency in homes and businesses. These audits reveal the steps residents can take to cut down on water consumption — and soften the impact of water rates that are scheduled to nearly double over the next five years.
And the truth is, ratepayers have considerable control over their water bills.
District 4 Council Member Paul Caprioglio, who co-authored the Water Conservation Act with District 6’s Lee Brand, can attest to this fact.
He called the water conservation office at (559) 621-5480 and scheduled an evaluation of his home on a large lot south of Fresno State. The city’s water expert pointed to several leaky faucets outside and explained how installing new sprinkler heads could save considerable water.
Caprioglio made those changes, placed buckets under his eaves to capture rain coming off the roof and more buckets to collect water inside the shower. Now he even takes the water left after washing the dishes and uses it to irrigate plants and grass. He also no longer washes his cars at home. And he follows city watering rules.
“I’m almost obsessive about saving water,” he said.
Thursday night he brought his January utility bill to the council meeting and talked about the results before the big vote.
The bill was $74.58.
$25.37 for garbage pickup and sanitation.
$25.81 for sewer.
And $17.17 for water — $13.51 for the standby charge and just $3.66 for water consumption.
The city recently changed the bill format so that ratepayers can more easily understand the amount of water they use. There’s a line that compares your water use to the consumption of “the average household” in Fresno, which is 8,255 gallons monthly.
Caprioglio’s family used much less: 4,488.
“And that’s with a high-school student and a college student at home,” Caprioglio said.
Granted, nearly all Fresnans use less water in the winter. Caprioglio knows that his water consumption will go up in the summer. Still, his example illustrates that people who conserve will realize big savings.
Or, as Caprioglio says, “Save water, save money.”
Another thing: Only the water rates are doubling over the next five years under “Recharge Fresno.” The remainder of the bill — garbage, sanitation and sewer — are protected from rate increases during that time.
So find four utility bills from last year: one each from spring, summer, fall and winter. Five years from now, you can expect the water portion of those bills to be twice as high.
Or you can call 621-5480 ( or email email@example.com) to to request an on-site evaluation of your residence or business. (According to city officials, about 22,000 efficiency audits have been conducted since this program began in 2004.)
Not only will you pocket extra cash, but you’ll help replenish Fresno’s aquifer for now and generations to come.