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WWRC 97-11
Residential Water Use, Rate, Revenue and Nonprice Conservation Program Database

Executive Summary

This report describes and contains the information and database developed for the research on "Modeling and Evaluation of the Effects of Residential Water Conservation Price and Nonprice Programs in Urban Areas in the Western U.S." The water demand, price and conservation program information documented in this report is the result of research and data collection efforts and utility cooperation initiated in 1991 by Dr. William Bruvold and continued by the researchers of this report through a consortium of universities. The study encompasses seven water utilities in three western states - California, Colorado and New Mexico. The information gathered, developed and refined for this study was digitized and a database created in spreadsheet format for analysis. Database structure, variable names, definitions, computational adjustments and study area characteristics are described in this report. The water demand modeling and analysis results of this research are presented in another publication of the American Water Works Association by Michelsen, McGuckin and Stumpf(1997) entitled "Effectiveness of Residential Water Conservation Price and Nonprice Programs."


The water utilities in this study were selected because they provide an excellent cross-section of communities in the region, were willing to participate in this study and maintained the necessary water consumption and revenue records. The study area communities vary in their household water demand, climate, size and income, and importantly include some that have actively pursued price and nonprice conservation programs and some that have not, and some that have experienced drought conditions and others that have not. The study area cities are: Los Angeles and San Diego, California; Broomfield and Denver, Colorado; and Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Collecting, assembling and refining the data necessary for this study was a formidable task, in part because of the traditional accounting and reporting practices of most water utilities. Historically, water utilities have not maintained their records in electronic form (until recently) or maintained records in a format suitable for analysis of long-term water demand conditions and the effects of conservation programs. In addition, record keeping within individual utilities has changed over time and varies among utilities. Many of the cities initially considered for inclusion in this study were subsequently screened out due to changes in reporting practices and a lack of required water demand information.

For each of the areas included in this study, information on residential water use, number of accounts, rate structure and price, utility revenue, nonprice conservation programs, climate and socioeconomic conditions was gathered covering, when available, the period from January 1980 through mid-1995. Utility records of residential water use, number of accounts and revenue on a billing period basis (monthly, bimonthly or as available) were obtained from a variety of utility sources: on computer printouts, in annual reports, on summary forms and sometimes electronically. Much of the data for this study was collected and transcribed by hand. Because of differences in individual utility billing and reporting periods and changes in data definitions over the period of study, time consuming and detailed efforts, with the cooperation and assistance of utility staff, were required to verify and reconcile these problems and develop consistent data series for each variable within and across study areas.

A database of the reported (unadjusted) information that was gathered from utilities and the information that was further developed and refined for this study was digitized and assembled in spreadsheet format. The database contains monthly observations for each variable. The residential water use, rate structure, revenue, nonprice conservation program, climate and socioeconomic database is included in Appendix C of this report. The database is also available in electronic form on diskette by request through the American Water Works Association (Denver, Colorado) and Water Resources Research Institutes of The Powell Consortium (contact: Wyoming Water Resource Center, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming; Colorado Water Resources Research Institute, Colorado State University; or New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico).


A large number of residential nonprice conservation programs have been implemented by water utilities with the expectation that they will encourage either short-term and/or long-term reductions in residential water use. In order to evaluate, verify and quantify the effectiveness of individual nonprice programs, it is necessary to have accurate information about specific program activities, levels of effort, scope and coverage, and the exact periods of implementation. This information was often difficult or impossible to obtain from existing utility records. For example, we found that similar programs were often aggregated and reported as one single or ajoint set of programs without descriptions of individual programs, dates of implementation or measures of specific program efforts. Reports on conservation activities might simply state that several different education programs were implemented over a period of years. Aggregation of programs and lack of information about program duration were particularly common with education and public information activities. Until detailed information regarding individual conservation program implementation activities are recorded and maintained, the interaction between such programs and use patterns of consumers cannot be properly determined. This issue is critical to evaluating the effectiveness of conservation programs and is addressed in greater detail in the section on nonprice conservation program documentation in this report and in the recommendation section of this study's research analysis report, "Effectiveness of Residential Water Conservation Price and Nonprice Programs."

Although it is recognized that utility resources are limited and nonprice conservation program documentation can be a difficult and time consuming task, we strongly recommend that resources be dedicated to developing and maintaining detailed, consistent documentation regarding nonprice conservation programs and efforts. This will enable water utility managers in the future to better monitor, evaluate and document the effectiveness of their programs and to implement the programs that best suit their needs.

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