Model homes to showcase next generation of water-saving devices, California-friendly landscaping

March 10, 2004
New-home buyers and lookie-loos will soon see the next generation of water-saving wizardry and cutting-edge conservation devices at model homes throughout Southern California under a new pilot project authorized recently by Metropolitan Water District's board of directors.

LOS ANGELES, March 10, 2004 -- New-home buyers and lookie-loos will soon see the next generation of water-saving wizardry and cutting-edge conservation devices at model homes throughout Southern California under a new pilot project authorized recently by Metropolitan Water District's board of directors.

From dual-flush toilets and high-efficiency clothes washers to lawns outfitted with weather-sensitive irrigation controllers, Metropolitan will partner with other water agencies and homebuilders to outfit at least 80 model homes with new-technology fixtures and California-Friendly® landscaping that demonstrate residential water conservation exceeding current building standards.

"It's one thing to read or hear about a new water-saving device or appliance, but it's another thing to actually see it in a home," said Metropolitan Chief Executive Officer Ronald R. Gastelum. "This pilot project gives us the opportunity to show the public how water conservation has evolved from the proverbial brick-in-the-toilet tank days.

"Model homes, which attract large numbers of potential buyers and visitors interested in learning about the latest options to upgrade new and existing homes, provide us with a unique opportunity to educate and encourage the public on the latest methods in urban water conservation," Gastelum said.

Representatives from the building industry and homebuilders heralded the pilot project as a way to gauge the public's acceptance and demand for the state-of-the-art water-saving fixtures in current and future developments.

Richard Lambros, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of California, said Metropolitan's project complements the efforts of the BIA and its members to promote conservation at home.

"This project will go one step further by educating the consumer and demonstrating the savings at the most critical time -- the point of purchase. At these model homes, buyers and visitors will be able to see both the beauty and the financial advantages of today's conservation choices, as they view firsthand everything from drought-resistant plants to water-efficient fixtures," Lambros said.

Jay Moss, regional general manager for KB HOME, Southern California, applauded Metropolitan for the responsive pilot project. "Metropolitan is on the mark with this progressive incentive project, which presents huge potential water- and cost-saving benefits for homeowners today and in the future," Moss said.

Under the $250,000 project, Metropolitan will provide developers with up to $2,500 in incentives per home to cover only the incremental cost beyond plumbing code requirements for the fixture and landscaping upgrades. Metropolitan also will provide marketing materials to guide homeowners, prospective buyers and visitors, who can immediately realize lower monthly expenses by applying elements of the program.

Among the conservation concepts Metropolitan plans to exhibit in the models are new-era, water-efficient landscape designs tailored for three distinct Southland lifestyles -- from the active family to the professional set and the "empty-nesters." The landscape designs incorporate native and California-Friendly® plants to meld the aesthetic demands and maintenance challenges of the various lifestyles.

"Since many of these water-saving designs and devices are new and unfamiliar to the public, they are not usually displayed or offered in home improvement stores or home design centers," said Stephen N. Arakawa, Metropolitan's manager of water resource management. "This project gives us a chance to introduce and showcase these features at points of purchases in new homes."

In a separate action, Metropolitan's board approved adjustments in the agency's water rates and charges, consistent with the district's long-term finance plan to fund ongoing operations and capital expenditures.

Under the action, elements of Metropolitan's unbundled rates will increase, while others will decrease, reflecting the district's changes in the 2005 cost of service. The estimated overall increase in Metropolitan's rates and charges is $25 per acre-foot or 4.4 percent, primarily due to rising water treatment and power costs.

Effective Jan. 1, 2005, untreated water purchased and delivered under Metropolitan's full-service, tier one rate will increase $5 to $331 per acre-foot, while drinking water treated at Metropolitan regional filtration plants will cost $443 per acre-foot, reflecting a $25 per acre-foot increase. Full-service, tier two untreated rates will increase from $407 to $412 per acre-foot, and treated tier two water will increase $25 to $524 per acre-foot.

The difference between the basic upper and lower tier supply rates reflects Metropolitan's cost for acquiring new supplies. (An acre-foot is nearly 326,000 gallons, about the amount used by two typical Southland families in a year.)

The adjustments affect the wholesale cost of water supplied to Metropolitan's 26 member public agencies. The effect on Southland consumers will vary widely depending on how much of Metropolitan's imported water supplies are purchased by their local water companies to augment local supplies such as groundwater. Some local agencies also may experience increased costs for the further development of local resources. While some areas depend entirely on Metropolitan for water, other areas use little, if any, of MWD supplies.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other water-management programs.

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