Ahead of rising water rates to pay for a new project tapping into the Sacramento River, Davis has teamed with a San Francisco software firm on a new citywide program to help residents conserve.
The city and WaterSmart Software debuted a Web-based program April 1 that tells customers how much water they use, compares consumption with like-sized homes and suggests conservation methods.
Though free to residents, Davis' initial costs are estimated at more than $108,000, according to city officials.
Conserving water is becoming a pocketbook issue for Davis' 14,000 residential water customers.
Davis leaders last month approved rate hikes to help pay for the multimilllion dollar surface water project that will supplement the city's groundwater with water from the Sacramento River. Voters approved the project last month.
The water rate for a typical Davis single-family home is about $35 a month, but that amount is expected to triple over the next five years. The first increase will occur May 1.
Households that consume more water will face higher rates under changes in Davis' rate structure.
User-friendliness is a main goal of the new WaterSmart program, said Herb Niederberger, the city's general manager for utilities, development and operations.
"One of the major focuses is that it be very easy to use so that people will want to use it," he said.
Davis is one of several municipal and utility clients in WaterSmart's customer list, which includes the cities of Cotati and Newport Beach, and the East Bay Municipal Utility District.
WaterSmart officials claim its program helped Cotati reduce water use by 5 percent within six months of its launch.
Davis leaders say the program continues the city's decades-long tradition of conservation.
Davis has steadily chipped away at its water use over the years. In 1990, for example, Davis used an average of 230 gallons of water per capita per day, according to city data. By 2010, consumption had shrunk to 150 gallons per capita per day.
Davis also provides free workshops and home water use evaluations for residents, all part of a long-term goal to cut water usage in the city by 20 percent by 2020.
"We're well on track to make that number," said Niederberger.
The city's natural resources commission also has added a goal of its own to reduce the city's water use by another 20 percent on top of Davis' own long-range targets, Niederberger said.
The new surface water project is designed to supply 18 million gallons a day of treated river water to Woodland and 12 million gallons a day to Davis starting in 2016.
For that, Davis will pay about $116 million of the project's projected $245 million price tag before water purchase, operations and other costs.
Residents also face the possibility of a summer without one of the city's busiest wells.
Well 30 on Davis' west side was shut down in late February for manganese contamination.
City water officials have said the well responsible for more than 10 percent of Davis' water supply could be dormant for months.
HOW TO SIGN UP
Residents can sign up for WaterSmart by visiting the city's website at http://water.cityofdavis.org/watersmart
Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.