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Incentives from municipalities, utilities driving water conservation

Joe Martin ~ Cronkite News Service~ 5/7/2014

Scottsdale offers residents $75 for installing new toilets that use less water. Some other Arizona municipalities have water conservation incentives of $1,000 or more.
The goal: encouraging conservation of the state’s finite water supply and, in turn, lowering the cities’ costs of obtaining and delivering water.
With supplies limited and growth expected, conservation is certain to be a big part of Arizona’s water future. But experts say making homes more water-efficient is driven primarily by government and utility incentives rather than homeowners simply trying to go green. They point to the relatively inexpensive cost of water as the reason.
Water costs in Phoenix are eighth-lowest on a list of 30 U.S. cities, at about $38.75 a month for an average family using 100 gallons per person per day, according to Circle of Blue, an organization dedicated to covering world resource issues.
While water might be cheap today, experts project that that won’t be the case in the future, so some local governments are using incentives, such as rebates or city programs that help residents go green, to stay ahead of the curve.
Instead of providing a rebate, Phoenix tries to reduce the cost of water by retrofitting older houses and houses in low-income neighborhoods with more water-efficient appliances.
Gerard Silvani, principal planner for the city of Phoenix, said residents are naturally making the switch without the need for a rebate, but for those who can’t afford to do so, it makes more sense for the city to help out.
“To incentivize something that’s already happened wouldn’t be very fair to our customers,” he said. “We would change that policy perhaps if we felt we’re facing a shortage.”
Carol Ward-Morris, program manager for Demand Management and Sustainability at the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, said that while incentives have proven to be successful Phoenix’s retrofit program, which has been going on for nearly 20 years, has proven successful.
“It’s just a different approach. Not everyone has the same menu of incentives, if any at all. It depends on how it fits into their mix,” Ward-Morris said.