Best Practices

Mayor James Pedgrift

Plumbing Rebate: A Low Impact Approach

Throughout California, water utilities are offering incentives to customers for upgrading to efficient plumbing fixtures. The most common form of incentive program in urban areas is the "Toilet Rebate Program." Santa Rosa's water utility has implemented one of these popular programs with some unique qualities which make this a "low impact, low flow" program. These qualities include:

  • a minimum of time and money spent on administration;

  • immediate inspection process and rebate delivery;

  • assurance that the upgrade will stay in place.

Santa Rosa's Plumbing Rebate Program -- "Go Low Flow" -- targets 40,000 residential and commercial utility connections in an urban area with a population of 120,000. Both water conservation and wastewater flow reduction goals drive the program from the city's General Plan. Ultimate sizing of Santa Rosa's water and wastewater systems depends on significant sustainable reduction in water use and wastewater flows from water conservation measures.

A utility customer wanting a rebate for upgrading toilets, showers and faucets has one of two choices: contacting one of several participating plumbing contractors who have signed an agreement with the city to abide by designated standards of service and price; or installing the fixtures personally and completing "rebate request forms" to receive the rebate. The city grants $100 for replacing one toilet and all faucets and showers, and $50 for each additional toilet changed. For the contractor installations, the rebate amount is deducted from the customer's invoice, and then paid by the city to the plumbing contractor; for the self-install option the rebate is a credit to the utility bill. This arrangement minimizes administrative impact to the city by reducing the number of rebate payments processed.

The current program has a goal of reducing water use and wastewater flow by one million gallons per day and is supported by a budget of $3.5 million over five years. This savings is not linked to behavioral changes but to permanent hardware, so it is sustainable. This "demand management" is actually a source of new water supply and wastewater treatment/disposal capacity to the city.

To complete the "low impact" theme, old toilets are crushed and recycled as road base, and packaging cardboard for new toilets is also recycled.

Contact: Virginia Porter, (707) 543-3987

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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