SF considers mandating individual residential water meters in conservation effort 

click to enlarge Supervisor Scott Wiener says in order for residents in multiunit homes to be aware of water usage, individual water meters might neeed to be installed.
  • Supervisor Scott Wiener says in order for residents in multiunit homes to be aware of water usage, individual water meters might neeed to be installed.

California's drought conditions are putting water conservation into the forefront of public discourse, and one San Francisco supervisor wants The City to consider mandating the installation of individual water meters in housing units to aid the effort.

In San Francisco's old multiunit buildings, there is no way for a tenant to know how much water they may be using since there are usually common water meters shared among building dwellers.

"Water metering is an important way to reduce water use by allowing people to know their water consumption and requiring them to pay for it separately," according to a statement from the office of Supervisor

Scott Wiener, who proposed the mandate. "Unlike electricity, which is individually metered, water is not currently required to be separately metered for multiunit buildings. This means that most people don't pay individual water bills, but instead either have the cost included as part of their rent or split water bills using HOAs or some other mechanism to divide the single water use for the whole building. This creates no incentive for individual water conservation."

Wiener said Tuesday that "for older buildings, it is often infeasible to actually shift over to individual metering. But at a minimum, we should be taking a look at this for new construction."

The proposal is expected to be discussed at a public hearing at the Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee in September, when the board returns from its August summer recess. The hearing will also include reports from city department heads about their water conservation efforts. Departments' plans for water conservation are due by Friday.

The good news is that San Francisco's water customers in recent weeks are exceeding the 10 percent water-usage reduction goal.

"Customers are now doing a good job," San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spokesman Charles Sheehan said. "We got off to a slow start earlier this year, but they've picked up the pace and we're seeing significant water conservation throughout our entire service territory."

The agency is now on track to meet its goal of saving 8 billion gallons of water this year. But a month ago, that did not seem to be the case.

On June 23, there were only 1.4 billion gallons saved. However, that number doubled in five weeks to 3.5 billion gallons, Sheehan said.

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