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What works best to encourage people to save water?

Brief by Central Staff

Water – December 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

Central Colorado’s favorite water bogeyman, the City of Aurora just east of Denver, commissioned a study by the University of Colorado, which examined water-use data from 10,000 households in that growing city of 300,000 residents.

The researchers found that a simple tiered pricing system — that is, the rate per gallon goes up with increased consumption — reduces use by about 5 percent.

When that pricing system is in use, then mandatory restrictions will reduce consumption by another 10 to 15 percent. Also, households that got rebates for water-saving toilets and washing machines reduced their usage by 10 percent.

Chris Goemans, an economist who co-authored the study, said that even though restrictions were effective, prices were more likely to keep use down.

With pricing, “people can determine how much water they want to use based on cost, not a restriction. Water is getting increasingly scarce. The price of things that are scarce goes up. We live in a desert. That’s the reality of it.”