Location: Reading, MA
- Demonstrate the implementation of two municipal water conservation incentive programs, designed to reduce indoor water use among town residents.
- Quantify the water savings associated with households participating in each of the municipal incentive programs and the reduction in overall water demand on the Reading public water supply as a result of these programs.
Description: Since 2003, the town of Reading has been implementing a comprehensive water conservation program, which includes rebates, residential water audits, retrofits of municipal buildings with water-saving devices, an audit of the town’s water distribution system, leak detection and repair, and an extensive public education program. The town provided data to the Targeted Watershed project on two of its residential water-conservation incentive programs. These programs provide:
- Rebates for low-flow toilets (up to $120), high-efficiency washing machines (up to $200), and rain-sensor systems ($25)
- Water audits and free installation of water-saving devices, tailored to the customers’ needs, including low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and toilet tank volume displacement bags
The town expanded its program to offer rebates for rain barrels ($25, starting in 2006) and audits to improve the efficiency of irrigation systems (starting in 2007). However, at the time of data analysis, these features of the program lacked sufficient data for their inclusion in the Targeted Watershed grant program’s evaluation.
The town also conducted an outreach and public education campaign on the water conservation and the rebate program. The outreach program included a water conservation curriculum delivered to all third-grade classes in the town. Approximately 370 students learned about water conservation and brought home an information packet and sample devices.
Data Collection and Analysis: Using water-billing records, the Department of Conservation and Recreation compared water usage of participants – that is, those receiving rebates and/or retrofits –before and after implementation to:
- Quantify the reduction in water demand achieved by both programs overall, and
- Quantify the average savings per participating household.
- As of August 2007:
- 1,119 rebates for toilets and washing machines had been issued to 1,042 households
- 638 water-saving devices had been distributed as part of water audits for 153 residential customers
- Analysis conducted of the water savings associated with the two programs, Fall 2006 through March 2008
Costs: Total program budget of $1 million was funded through the town’s water rates at $250,000 per year for four years. This funding is expected to support program activities through 2011.
Key Results and Conclusions:
- Moderate savings in water use were achieved in both the audit/retrofit and rebate programs.
- The highest average savings were observed in households participating in both programs, though these findings were statistically the least robust, due to the smallest sample size.
- After five years, 9.2% of town households participated in at least one of the audit and/or rebate programs.
- Town-wide savings from these two programs, at a 9.2% participation rate, amount to approximately four million gallons per year.
Final Reports and Publications:
Tsai, Yushiou, Sara Cohen, Richard M. Vogel, 2011. The Impacts of Water Conservation Strategies on Water Use: Four Case Studies. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. pp.1-15 (print publication pending)
In-kind cooperation: Town of Reading
Monitoring and Analysis: DCR and Tufts University with oversight from a Technical Advisory Committee comprised of eight water conservation professionals.
Acknowledgements: DCR would like to acknowledge the town of Reading for providing invaluable data from this program to the Targeted Watershed project.