Water Efficiency Durham


Durham Region is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, on the eastern border of Toronto. In 1995 Durham Region began developing initiatives to help their customers reduce water consumption. Durham Region has a population of over 531,000 citizens, and between 1990-1994 the population grew at a rate of 2.4% annually, while water consumption increased at the alarming rate of 6% annually. Durham Region recognized its potential water supply problem and consequently set out to reduce the water consumption of its 118,000 metered regional water customers. By reducing the water consumption of its citizens, costly water plant expansions could be avoided. Residential water consumption represents 62% of the total water consumption in Durham, and for this amount to be significantly reduced a program that encompassed a variety of strategies had to be developed. Some of these strategies involved residential toilet replacement, lawn and garden watering reduction, and general water efficiency information. All of these initiatives helped contribute to the success of the Water Efficient Durham program. Glen Pleasance, Durham Region's water efficiency co-ordinator, decided to use a non-coercive approach to changing water related behaviour. Residents had to understand that despite their close proximity to Lake Ontario (one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world) it was essential that everyone reduce the amount of water they used for their lawn and garden, as well as the amount of water consumed by everyday household appliances and fixtures like toilets. Pleasance decided to utilize community-based social marketing in facilitating these changes. This approach, which relies heavily upon personal communication, gave summer student employees the opportunity to communicate effectively with residential water customers. Also, if customers had questions or concerns they could easily be answered. After conducting extensive public consultations to determine where Durham Region should concentrate its water efficiency efforts, specific initiatives were developed. These initiatives included implementing a Water Fixture Replacement Program (WFRP) to replace 7,500 toilets in 5,000 homes over a two year period, establish a Water Efficient Demonstration Garden, institute an Odd/Even Day Lawn Watering Bylaw, develop initiatives to reduce the Summer Peak Consumption (which exceeded 50%), publish a 60 page Householder Guide to Water Efficiency, develop a workshop for the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) water customers as well as an accompanying assessment guide to enable participating organisations to identify new efficiencies in their water use. Water Fixture Replacement Program: In 1996 the Ontario Building Code introduced the mandatory installation of 6 litre toilets in all new construction. The Code does not require the installation of 6L toilets when replacing existing toilets, however many municipalities offer incentives toward the installation of 6L toilets over 13L and 20L toilets. The first major residential water efficiency program deployed by Durham Region was the Water Fixture Replacement Program. This was a two-year program that replaced 7200 toilets in 5400 homes, which resulted in an average water savings of 26.2% per household. This represents an average savings of $77 in water and sewer billing per household annually (all amounts in this report are in Canadian dollars). Incentives for promoting the installation of these 6L toilets included flat-rate installation fees as well as having the installation appointment scheduled for the customer. The residents paid $153, and the Region paid $100 for each replacement. Besides the toilet replacement initiative, the program also offered subsidized and installed showerheads, aerators, rain barrels, and sprinkler timers. Another Water Fixture Replacement Program was deployed in 1999 in Uxbridge (a community in Durham Region) because it is constrained in both water supply and sewage treatment. Surveys revealed public attitudes toward 6L toilets and identified specific barriers to toilet replacement. The identified barriers included the beliefs that they did not work well, and that the retail price was too high. Consequently, the program focused on the quality of 6L toilets and offered the toilets for free. Participants only paid for the installation, which was approximately $65 per toilet. In Uxbridge, 23% of the fixtures were replaced, which resulted in a savings of $350,000 and allowed a delay of the sewage treatment plant expansion. Summer Water Consumption: Excessive lawn watering is a significant challenge for many water efficiency programs. Only by changing behaviour can water usage be reduced. Community-based social marketing strategies are well suited as the face-to-face communications employed are more likely to change participant's long-term behaviour compared to simply providing information through brochures or bill-stuffers. By using non-coercive techniques a relationship can develop between the participant and the program employee, which allows open communication to take place. The Pilot Program: In 1997 Durham Region ran a pilot program in the town of Ajax aimed at reducing lawn watering. The university students who were employed, utilized community-based social marketing methods to reduce the amount of water consumed by participants. Their photo identification, and Water Efficient Durham T-shirts and hats easily identified them. The students approached residents in pairs when it seemed appropriate, as they did not want to inconvenience the residents. The focus was on developing a trusting and helpful relationship with residents. The students gave the residents a brochure on water efficiency and they talked to them about ways to reduce their water consumption. The students stressed that lawns only need one inch of water, including rainfall, a week to remain healthy. This helped residents realize that much of their watering was unnecessary. The first intervention was followed by five more, each allowing the residents to develop a more trusting relationship with the students. The students visited two hundred homes over a ten-week period. There were four different study areas, and the students observed the water habits of each area from bicycles for fourteen hours each day. The four areas under study were: a control area, a traditional mail-out area, Master Gardeners providing landscape assessments, and students meeting residents face-to-face. By far the most successful of these areas was where students interacted with residents; they achieved an observed 26% reduction in watering. In this area the summer peak of those homes was reduced by half. Clearly, the community-based social marketing methods employed by the students significantly reduced the peak summer water consumption of these homes, which resulted in the 1998 program expansion. In 1998 the program expanded to nine hundred homes in six communities: Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Port Perry, and Uxbridge. These neighbourhoods were chosen because they each had a history of high summer water use. Due to the success of the student interventions relative to other approaches utilized in 1997, only the student interactions with residents were utilized in 1998. The students contacted each household six times. During these interventions they gave residents hose washers, a rain gauge, lawn care and gardening brochures, the Household Guide to Water Efficiency, and a tag for the outdoor faucet that acts as prompt to remind people to conserve their water. The Household Guide to Water Efficiency is a sixty-page book that gives residents a plethora of opportunities for indoor and outdoor water conservation. The students would then ask the residents to reduce their water consumption by whatever means they preferred. The students stressed that residents use the rain gauge to measure the amount of irrigation they applied. Generally, one inch of water (including rainfall) is sufficient for most turf. The rain gauges were used to determine this amount. The final goal was to get residents to make a written commitment to a series of water efficient behaviours, including watering a maximum of one inch of water per week. Given the importance of restricting watering to no more than one inch per week, residents were asked to make a written commitment toward achieving this goal. Written commitments, are more likely to be effective than those that are made verbally (see Chapter 3 in the online guide for more information on commitments). Written commitments were obtained from eighty-eight percent of the households and this program also achieved a 26% reduction in outdoor water use. The program cost $88 per household for a total of $80,000. This program achieved its goal by giving residents both the information and tools that they required to reduce their lawn watering. In 1999 Durham Region focused on the Water Fixture Replacement Program, but in 2000 they decided to employ the summer students again. The students worked in two neighbourhoods, one in Whitby (350 homes) and one in Oshawa (700 homes). One change in this study was that the monitoring was done by means of bulk metering, instead of the observations done previously by the students. This method allows community water use to be monitored unobtrusively assuring that residents are not changing their behaviour just because they are being scrutinized. Monitoring is accomplished by reducing water supply to one water main and using an insertion meter and data logger to measure water flow to the homes. Once temperature and precipitation data are overlaid, irrigation can be quantified. By comparing the study area to a control area, the student's impact can be measured. Compared to the 1998 study, in the 2000 study the students only did four interventions per household. The first intervention was aimed at introducing the students and the program to the resident. The students gave the participant two brochures, one brochure provided information on Durham Region's Water Efficient Demonstration Garden, and the other provided general water efficiency information. The second intervention stressed the program's main goal, which was limiting lawn watering to one inch per week, including rainfall. The students also gave participants rain gauges and lawn-watering brochures. During the third visit residents were given a water reminder tag for their outdoor faucet (see the graphics database to view this reminder) and the Household Guide to Water Efficiency. On the final visit, the students would ask the resident for a public written commitment to limit his/her irrigation to one inch per week. Eighty-two percent of residents agreed to the written commitment and water consumption was reduced 32% compared to the control area. This equals a reduction of two hundred and fifteen litres of water per household per day. The cost of the program was also reduced to forty-five dollars per household. In 2001 students recruited volunteers to help spread the success of the program to 3000 homes, compared to the 1000 homes reached in 2000. This method is known as social diffusion because it relies on educated volunteers to communicate the benefits to their circle of friends. Unfortunately, the students were not able to recruit enough volunteers, and it took more effort to recruit volunteers than to have the students do all of the front line contact themselves. The students then reverted back to their face-to-face contact with the three hundred households that were being bulk-monitored, homes that were not included in the 2000 study area. In the summer of 2001 the control and study areas from the 2000 program were bulk-monitored again to determine what portion of the 32% irrigation reduction was sustained through the following summer; the participants were not told about this monitoring. The 32% irrigation reduction was maintained only on weekends, not on weekdays. Part of the reason for this confusing result was that the summer of 2000 was wetter, whereas the summer of 2001 was considerably drier and hotter than average. Some of the innovations in Durham's 2002 program included the students knocking on doors in the study area as opposed to relying solely on casual contact (i.e., approaching people that are outside doing yard work or watering). The students also used Palm Pilots to record each contact made with homeowners and track the actions from each meeting. Previously, the students would spend up to 25% of their time simply transcribing and inputting the results each day. These innovations enabled the students to triple the 2000 CBSM program coverage area to almost 3,000 homes and reduce the cost per household to $24 (the cost in 2000 was $45 per household). A summary of the interventions used in 2002 is provided below. Intervention #1: Conducted between June 15th and July12th. Students gave participants a program introduction and completed a baseline questionnaire. The students then provided homeowners with a rain gauge, recording card, and fridge magnet. Coverage of intervention #1 was ?close to 100%.? Intervention #2: Conducted from June 30th to July 13th. Residents were given the Region's sixty page Household Guide to Water Efficiency and a hose bibb reminder tag (which can be viewed in the graphics database at this site). Students discussed the various indoor and outdoor water savings opportunities contained in the book. By ?flipping through the book' the students would identify areas of interest to the resident. The guide often stimulated long conversations with residents on conserving water. The Guide also helped to build upon concepts introduced during the first intervention. The hose bibb tag, with its ?1 Inch Per Week,? ?Odd/Even Watering,? and ?Water in the Morning? reminders was a visual prompt to reinforce those irrigation habits that conserve water. Intervention #3: Conducted between July 13th and July 28th. Focused on water efficient gardening. Students distributed the Region's two brochures introducing and listing the plants from its water-efficient demonstration garden. Residents were encouraged to visit the Region's garden and to choose water-efficient plants for their own gardens. Intervention #4: Conducted from July 28th to mid August. Final intervention. Involved the distribution of the Commitment Form. The Commitment Form is a written ?social contract' completed by the resident in the presence of the students, listing a series of water savings actions. The most important commitment (limiting irrigation to a maximum of 1? per week including rainfall) received a 90% commitment level. This level of support corresponds well with the quantified peak demand reductions of 27%.


A measure is said to be cost-effective if the costs associated with implementing the measure are less than the costs associated with not implementing it. Water saved as part of an irrigation reduction program will help to defer the need for water supply infrastructure expansion.

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