Thursday, June 10, 2021

Idaho Falls considers pilot program to monitor residential water use

To read the city's Water Facility Plan, follow this link: https://www.idahofallsidaho.gov/DocumentCenter/View/975/Water-Facility-Plan-PDF?bidId=

The city of Idaho Falls is looking at starting a pilot program to study residential water use that would involve giving 100 homeowners access to real-time monitoring through a mobile app as the city collects data it intends to use in its decision making.

In 2015, following discussion and public comment, the City Council approved a Water Facility Plan that provides key water system information, evaluations and recommendations regarding growth and sustainability of the water system. Both commercial and residential water conservation measures were recommended in the plan.

The Residential Water Conservation Pilot Program is designed to help shape the future of Idaho Falls residential water use while conserving Idaho’s most valuable resource.

“We have been monitoring some commercial property water use for up to sixty years, but this program will give us the ability to monitor residential property so that we can make more data-driven decisions in the future," said Idaho Falls Water Division Superintendent Dave Richards. “The new system makes water conservation easier for the user by literally putting it in the palm of their hand."

By monitoring water usage in various size homes and properties over the next two years, the Water Division hopes to gain a better understanding of how water is used in households and which water fixture replacements provide the maximum benefit in our area. The division would also gain critical data needed to plan for the city’s future growth and needs.

The program would be similar to energy efficiency programs dating back to the 1970s and '80s, Richards said.

If the program is approved by City Council, the Water Division will contact 100 qualifying homeowners to discuss the program. They would look for homes of varying characteristics (lot size, age, means of landscape watering, etc.). The Division would then install water meters within the existing meter pits on the properties of those randomly selected.

“The pilot program will not impact their water bill, and residents will continue to be billed on a non-metered basis,” Richards said.

Water usage would be monitored for one year prior to installing new fixtures. After that, the Division would schedule a tour of each of the 100 homes to help the resident identify a list of inefficient water fixtures (toilets, faucets, shower heads, washers, sprinkler times, etc.) that qualify for the replacement program.

The resident would have the option of purchasing replacement fixtures from an approved list of WaterSense certified fixtures and selecting a company to complete the installation of the replacement fixtures from an approved list of licensed and bonded plumbers.

The City of Idaho Falls would reimburse up to a maximum of $500 (approximately five fixtures) per household. The city would also reimburse the homeowner up to a maximum of $500 per household for the installation cost of a plumber.

Water usage would then be monitored for a second year, with the Water Division comparing water usage patterns with those of the previous year, before the fixtures were replaced. This could help determine which fixtures promote the best conservation potential for a future water fixture rebate program.

Although no date has been fixed, the Idaho Falls City Council will vote on the program at a regular meeting. To receive notifications about upcoming City Council meetings and city press releases, go to www.idahofalls.gov and click on the Notify Me button.

All City Council meetings are live streamed and archived for later viewing on the City of Idaho Falls website.