Americas
Utilities
Analysis
Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Meet the tiny disk taking on LA's colossal water challenge

The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District has unveiled a new device the size of a small disk that can reduce water flow to customers who refuse to abide by new water restrictions.

It's not the size that counts 

Southern Californian utility, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, has unveiled a new device the size of a small disk that can reduce water flow to customers who refuse to abide by new water restrictions.

The small disk is designed to be installed in the home's main shutoff valve and features a metal washer with a central aperture, only sixteenth of an inch in diameter. 

While water flow from kitchen taps will appear unaffected, showers and lawn sprinklers become effectively non-functional. When installed, it can cut water flow from 30 gallons per minute to just one gallon per minute.

“We're trying to help our customers do the right thing; we're not trying to be punitive..”

The utility will install the flow restrictor for customers that have not reduced their water usage since December 2021 and have exceeded 150 per cent of their monthly water budgets four times. 

Upon installation, the flow restrictor would be in place for between two weeks and one month and tampering with the restrictor can result in a $2,500 fine. 

“What we’re trying to do is have a path for them to get their water use under control,” said David Pedersen, the water district’s general manager, reported the LA Times.  

"We're trying to help our customers do the right thing; we're not trying to be punitive."

Currently, 1,609 customers use enough water to warrant a flow restrictor, Pedersen said, but the district doesn’t plan on installing that many.
 

Reducing water usage

The district is one of the top water users in California, with customers using an average of 205 gallons per person per day last year.

On top of this, around 70 per cent of the district's water is used outdoors.

The district provides potable water, wastewater treatment, recycled water and biosolids composting to more than 75,000 residents and relies on the State Water Project. 

“The idea is for people to change their behaviour and what their relationship is with water for us to be successful collectively.”

Under new drought restriction rules on June 1, regional water officials hope to reduce usage to about 80 gallons per person per day.

"The idea is for people to change their behaviour and what their relationship is with water for us to be successful collectively," water district spokesperson Mike McNutt was reported to have said.

Las Virgenes Municipal Water District staff visited 20 homes that were the highest percentage over budget, with some exceeding 200 to 300 per cent over the average. 

Despite this, only four water restrictors were installed, with the other 16 customers signing water usage commitment documents. 
 

Changing the water consumption narrative

Other initiatives are underway to reduce water usage in the home.

In the Netherlands, drinking water utility Vitens is exploring what drives behavioural change to create more sustainable water use.

In collaboration with Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Vitens is developing an approach that it believes will help reduce water demand.

A study by KWR Water Research Institute revealed that 22 per cent of Dutch people never seriously consider their drinking water consumption.

Similarly, in 2020 a global movement called the 50L Home Coalition was launched to change the narrative on domestic water consumption. 

The coalition aims to create more water-efficient homes and includes partners such as the World Economic Forum, Kohler, Procter & Gamble (P&G), SUEZ, ENGIE, Arcadis and Electrolux.

 

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