Pay as You Save

Urban water conservation will be the leading source of water for California’s growing population, according to projections by the California Department of Water Resources. To meet the supply demands of California’s growing population at the lowest cost and protect against droughts, local governments should expand its water conservation efforts.

Water-efficient landscaping is a part of Windsor’s efforts to limit water consumption. Photo credit: Pete Litterski

The urban sector, and residential use in particular, provide the greatest opportunities for cost-effective water savings through conservation. Urban water conservation can contribute an estimated 2.0 to 2.3 million-acre feet a year to our water supplies – enough to supply the current household demands of more than two million new families (The Ahwahnee Water Principles: A Blueprint for Regional Sustainability).

The Town of Windsor was the first municipality in California to approve an innovative water conservation and energy efficiency upgrade program that provides its residents with immediate savings on utility bills and requires no upfront cost or new debt.

Windsor’s Pay as You Save Program (PAYS) provides conservation incentives by allowing customers to pay for water and energy efficiency upgrades – including high-efficiency toilets, showerheads, washing machines and drought-tolerant landscaping – over time through a utility bill surcharge, with no upfront expense. The program has served nearly 200 single-family homes and over 200 multi-family units, saving an average of 10% energy use, 20% of indoor water use and $15 a month in net utility costs. The program has achieved a total savings of 5.87 million gallons of water (indoor and irrigation) and over 72,000 kWh energy.

PAYS® was developed with assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Building Program under a grant to the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority.

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