By Sky Kalfus.
As California’s four-year drought intensifies, municipal water authorities across the state are struggling to regulate household water usage. In the state capital of Sacramento, household gardeners who stray from the city’s strict schedule for sprinkler use can be charged with a hefty fine. Meanwhile, thanks to an outdated metering system, nearly half of the city’s 126,000 residents pay a flat monthly fee for water, regardless of how much they use.
The City of Sacramento Utilities department plans to have every connection metered by 2018, and it has $2.7 million in grants to improve meter technology already in homes. Many Sacramento residents will have to either get used to paying more for their water or conserve — and that’s part of the idea.
“Price turns out to be a very powerful way of telling people how much water they’re using, and encouraging them to use that water intelligently,” says Charles Fishman, author of The Big Thirst.
Proper meters can also identify unintentional waste. TheSacramento Bee estimates that one in 10 gallons of water is being lost through leaky pipes. “The meters have a measurement for very low flow,” explains Dan Sherry, supervising engineer for the City of Sacramento. With an updated system, residents would get a water bill alerting them to possible water loss, allowing them to identify and repair the leak at their discretion.