EBMUD teaches customers how to keep up with the water-saving Joneses

Today, East Bay Municipal Utility District enrolled its 50,000th customer into its My Water Report program, a personalized report that shows how actual water consumption within each home compares to households of similar size and demographics.

EBMUD began the phased roll-out of the report last summer, which coincided with intense customer attention on water use because of the statewide drought. Last year was EBMUD’s fifth driest year on record and this winter’s rain and snowfall indicates a potentially dry 2015.

“Our customers are conservation-minded and don’t want to waste water. They want an answer to this basic question: ‘How efficient am I?’ With these reports we are able to provide individual feedback to customers about how they compare to other people like them,” said Manager of Water Conservation Richard Harris.

The reports are based on social norms, a behavioral psychology concept that says people strive to behave similarly to their peers – in other words, they keep up with the Joneses. EBMUD initially launched a year-long pilot of the water report in June 2012 with nearly 10,000 customers, mostly in Castro Valley. Following successful completion of that pilot, in which customers reduced their water use by five percent, EBMUD launched the formal program in July 2014.

Through the program, EBMUD can target higher water using residential customers and send them a report via email or mail, separate from their water bills. The average East Bay home uses about 250 gallons per day. Last year, residential customers used even less when they cut back 13 percent because of the drought.

Customers receiving the report are encouraged to log onto ebmud.waterinsight.com to update their profile with key water use factors such as the size of their property, the number of residents and actions already taken to reduce their water use. A customized report is sent with information about how each customer compares to similar households. Also included are specific suggestions for cutting back water use, such as checking for leaks, conducting a home survey or replacing grass with low-water using plants.

EBMUD plans to enroll another 25,000 customers into the program this summer and another 25,000 in 2016, for a total of 100,000 participants. EBMUD has about 325,000 single family residential accounts.

“We are pleased to offer this service to our customers to help them learn more about their water use, especially now when drought and water conservation are high on the minds of every Californian,” said Manager of Customer and Community Services Sherri Hong. “Our customers continually ask how they can save more water and this report has answers for them.”