Scientists Hope to Promote Water Conservation Through Block-Rate Budgets

First Posted: Feb 20, 2014 01:24 PM EST

Have you ever left the faucet running while brushing your teeth? Or left the shower on as you tended to another chore before hopping in? This increased water usage may cost you if a new price structure is enacted. 

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside conducted a study with the goal of promoting water use efficiency in households nationwide. They examined increasing block-rate water budgets, which incorporate an escalating tiered price structure where consumption sizes are determined based on household characteristics, environmental conditions, and what is considered "efficient" water use based on the previous two aspects.

Kenneth Baerenklau of UC Riverside and his colleagues studied more than 13,000 single-family households and their monthly water use records. His study found that the block-rate water budgets are effective because the prices are set low for the essential uses of water, but then increase with any usage thereafter. They promote efficient usage of water by making it cheap for the everyday necessary usage of water.

"Increasing block-rate water budgets appear to be a highly effective price-based conservation tool that does not require significantly increasing the average price paid for water," said Baerenklau in this EurekAlert! article.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, water is wasted each year due to neglectful practices in households across the United States. For example, according to their Statistics and Facts page, 36 states were projected to have water shortages by 2013, the average American uses 100 gallons of water per day at home,the installation of water-efficient fixtures and appliances can help use 30% less water and the average household can save $170 per year with the installation of such fixtures and appliances.

Baerenklau also found that the increasing use of these water budgets has been seen among California water utilities between 2008 and 2011 to help support California's "20 x 2020 Water Conservation Plan" that aims to reduce per-capita water consumption by 20% by 2020. So before you plan to jump in the shower, make sure other needs are attended to before you let the hot water run for an extra ten minutes.

To read more about the UC Riverside study, visit this EurekAlert! article.

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