Creative water conservation: How local utilities are
reducing water use and saving customers money

Public water supply accounts for more than half of all the water used within the St. Johns River Water Management District’s 18-county jurisdiction. Every day, public utilities provide millions of customers with more than 544 million gallons of water for countless uses: drinking, bathing, washing dishes, flushing toilets and watering lawns.

In fact, outdoor watering accounts for half of the water used at an average home in the District and studies show half of that can be conserved.

Potable (drinking quality) water is not a limitless source. As part of its consumptive use permitting process, the District requires all permit holders to use water as efficiently as possible. Water supply utilities are required to implement conservation rate structures, perform water audits to ensure system efficiency and develop programs for the use of reclaimed water whenever possible.

Some utilities have found creative ways to implement their permit requirements. This is the first of a series of stories about public utilities that have developed innovative programs. These programs save their customers money while protecting our most precious limited resource: water. Today we highlight the work of Clay County’s utility.

Matt McMullin, who leads Clay County Utility Authority’s leak detection program, meets with a homeowner to review a leak assessment of her property.

Matt McMullin, who leads Clay County Utility Authority’s leak detection program, meets with a homeowner to review a leak assessment of her property.

Clay County Utility Authority

Unchecked water leaks can be a financial nightmare for a homeowner, not to mention a waste of water. Imagine receiving a water bill for hundreds of dollars because there is a leak somewhere on your side of the meter. Clay County Utility Authority (CCUA) has established a program to nip this in the bud.

Matt McMullin leads Clay County Utility Authority’s leak detection program.

The utility gathers approximately 63,803 meter readings every hour using a system called Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI). CCUA uses AMI data to isolate usage patterns that suggest a customer may have a water leak. Every day, staff receive an automated report identifying customers who have continuous water use for three consecutive days, indicating a possible leak. The utility proactively contacts the customer to notify them of their usage. If the customer is unaware of the problem or cannot locate the problem, CCUA dispatches a specialized technician to the customer’s residence to assist with locating the problem. If the customer locates a leak and makes a repair, they may qualify for a leak credit, says Celeste Goldberg, public relations and government affairs liaison.

“Rather than waiting for an abnormally expensive water bill to alert the customer to the leak, we make personal contact with the customer to inform them of the likelihood of a leak,” Goldberg says. “Since 2014, we’ve helped 19,174 customers save an average of $58.60 per month and conserved approximately 232.571 million gallons of water.”

CCUA also provides another service for property owners installing new turf. Customers who participate in a water conservation assessment of their home are eligible to have all usage during the 30-day period after new sod is installed capped to the second-tier rates.

“Homeowners who participate in our water conservation assessment learn how they can reduce their water use and lower their monthly bills by doing things like properly setting irrigation timers, installing rain sensors, watering only when necessary, and promptly fixing leaks,” Goldberg says. “We reward them with capped rates for watering new sod while it takes root.”

Next week, how the City of Ocoee Utility Department enhanced its water conservation efforts by implementing building codes that include indoor water conservation and energy efficiency measures

Customers have been very appreciative of our efforts and CCUA has been pleased with the volume of water conserved

Celeste Goldberg, Clay County Utility Authority, public relations and government affairs liaison

Be part of our Water Less campaign. Conserve water outdoors with easy-to-make changes at home and download materials to help others join the initiative at waterlessflorida.com.

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