EPA-Sponsored Report Finds Billing Residents for Water Separately From Rent Can Conserve Significant Amounts of Water...

Can Help Municipalities Delay Costly Infrastructure Expansions

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Municipalities and policy makers seeking incentives to improve water conservation should embrace direct water billing by the apartment industry, according to a new study produced in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 10 municipal water utilities and two national apartment associations.

The National Multiple Family Submetering and Allocation Billing Program Study, a three-year effort to determine the water savings potential in the apartment sector from requiring residents to pay for their water consumption separately from their rent, found that billing residents for their water usage by direct metering could reduce annual water consumption by an average of 15 percent.

"This latest research supports the apartment industry's long-hold contention that people tend to value things they pay for," noted Eileen Lee, Ph.D., Vice President of Environment for the National Multi Housing Council/National Apartment Association Joint Legislative Program and a study sponsor. "Unbundling water charges from the typical rent payment can provide consumers with an important signal about the price of a resource. Not only do residents use less water when they are paying directly for it, but it also makes them more aware of the importance of immediately reporting plumbing leaks in their homes." "This unique collaborative project shows the degree to which water billing is one of those rare issues that unites water providers, regulators, conservation groups and apartment owners," explained Lee. "Water is a precious resource, and many drought-stricken regions are finding it increasingly expensive and difficult to obtain new supplies. Meanwhile other cash-strapped areas are looking for ways to postpone costly new water treatment plants and other infrastructure investments required to keep up with current demand."

The research, conducted by Aquacraft under the direction of Dick Bennett of the East Bay (CA) Municipal Utility District, found that fully 85 percent of apartment properties still include water in the rent. This suggests there is enormous conservation potential if utilities use their avoided costs to provide incentives to property owners to upgrade plumbing fixtures and implement direct billing programs. "Direct water billing is a natural response to growing water shortages," noted Barbara Vassallo, Esq., Vice President of State and Local Policy for the National Apartment Association. "Before the energy crisis of the 1970s, electricity was typically included in rent. Today billing residents directly for the electricity they use in their apartment is standard practice, and by all accounts, this has significantly reduced electricity usage."

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