Be Responsible Conservation Program Overview
In late 1999, the City of Mercer Island began developing a water conservation strategy designed to achieve two goals:
|Water Conservation Program|
The City’s Utility Board agreed with staff that it was in the best interests of the City to develop a strategy that would inspire Island residents to change their water use behavior over the long term. Therefore, a multi-tiered block rate system that imposes a financial ‘penalty’ for high water use during the peak summer months was expanded. Funds collected as a result of this Water Conservation Surcharge are being used to fund water conservation education efforts throughout the year.
- Reduce peak-season (typically June through September) water consumption by 10% (compared to historic average) on a sustained annual basis.
- Reinforce indoor conservation practices to reduce consumption throughout the year.
To launch the program, a professional research firm conducted a telephone survey in April 2000. A random sample of 307 Mercer Island residents answered questions about various conservation issues and behaviors.
Survey results were used to finalize the City's plan, which has several objectives:
Key words were also identified, and the word 'responsibility’ was identified by those surveyed as the most favorable term to use in conjunction with water conservation. The City of Mercer Island’s Utility Board considered several themes and “Be Responsible – Use Water Wisely” was chosen as a theme for the program.
- Increase awareness that Mercer Island is one of the region’s bigger summertime water users on a per capita basis.
- Improve overall understanding of regional water storage and supply issues.
- Keep conservation ‘top of mind’ throughout the year.
- Focus on general education, with messages aimed at providing ‘how’ rather than ‘why’ information.
Numerous other activities have been initiated to help Island residents better understand water conservation issues. Utility bills were redesigned to include historic data to help residents track their water use over time. A bill insert was first included with the January/February 2001 billings to introduce the new “Be Responsible” program. The program was featured in several newspaper articles.
Most communication with Island residents was done through a series of unique, colorful postcards. Each was designed to address a specific topic, including parks, lawns, leaks, toilets, showers, washing machines and others. A shower timer was mailed to each household, to promote the concept of the five-minute shower and free low-flow showerheads were offered to residents.
To track program effectiveness, a second survey will be conducted. This survey will benchmark changes in attitudes and understanding of water conservation issues, and will help us identify next steps.