Representatives of New York American Water, a private utility that services over 4,000 ratepayers on the North Shore, hosted a workshop at the Glen Cove Knights of Columbus hall on March 21 to introduce residents to its new conservation campaign, H2O Control. The program, designed for NYAW’s Long Island customers, provides users with conservation tips, tools and technologies to help them save water and money.
NYAW President Lynda DiMenna said the campaign’s goal is to help meet the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s request that local water suppliers reduce peak summer water consumption by educating their customers about conservation strategies.
To develop H2O Control, the company sent a conservation survey to more than 5,000 American Water ratepayers and analyzed customer data over three years to assess “consumption spatially and over time,” said Lee Muller, NYAW’s external affairs manager.
“During this study, we were able to overlay that information on a GIS [geographic information system] map to understand where we needed to concentrate our efforts,” DiMenna said.
The data showed that NYAW customers use more than twice as much water as American Water customers in other areas. For example, in July, an average American Water customer uses about 6,000 gallons of water, while a NYAW customer uses more than 13,000.
The data suggests that outdoor irrigation is the cause of the overconsumption, which Margaret Hunter said includes pool maintenance and the use of sprinklers or automated irrigation systems. Hunter is a senior project manager with American Water and helped develop H20 Control.
“This program is trying to provide a toolbox of information to customers to enable them to make positive changes,” Hunter said. “We wanted to hear customers’ feedback on their water uses and behaviors, how they’re using water outdoors and what kind of irrigation schedules they’re setting so we could understand how to best benefit them.”
H20 Control includes tools, tips and technologies to help customers conserve water, many of which will be available later this year. The program features both digital and analog services to ensure access for all customers. “We developed a range of opportunities because we recognize that all customers are different,” Muller said, “and we need to meet them where they’re willing to go” (see boxes).
Hunter said that local ratepayers in Sea Cliff and Glen Head, depending on their water use, would “definitely” see a rate reduction if they were to implement some of the tools provided by the program. “Folks that are in our Tier Four rates, using above 15,000 gallons a month,” she said, “will really benefit.”
NYAW rates are set to increase again in April, as the third year of the utility’s conservation rate hike begins. Under the increase, which was to take effect April 1, customers in the Sea Cliff service district will see an average increase of 1.81 percent, or $1.32, on their monthly water bills.
Glen Head ratepayer Agatha Nadel, who joined other local customers in a protest outside the workshop, called the conservation rates a façade. “What they’re not telling you in there is that water usage has been declining for 10 years, before the rate proceedings,” she said. “These rates will just continue to ensure profit to the shareholders.”
Lawrence Ruisi denounced the conservation rate system, saying it penalizes larger households. “I have three children and a wife and a dog, and I have a 16-zone sprinkler, but I can’t reduce the size of my family,” Ruisi said. “They’re talking about a smart sprinkler system, and it’s great, but it’s not a substitute for public water.”
DiMenna said she sympathized with the North Shore ratepayers, who for the past two years have called for a municipal water supplier to replace NYAW. According to DiMenna, 59 percent of a Sea Cliff customer’s bill comprises the company’s property taxes.
“We understand that this is a significant burden on our customers,” she said. “And we are doing everything that we can to educate our elected officials and our customers on what we can do to help promote and relieve that burden off of them.”
For more information about H2O Control, visit https://amwater.com/nyaw/conservation.