It has been one dry winter in California, which is incredibly annoying if you're a skier or like drinking water, but maybe good if you own an Eichler with roof issues.
Anyway, we're getting to a part of the year where we're supposed to have a lot of our water supply stored in a snow-pack up in the Sierra Nevada, but instead of that we just have really tall rock walls along the eastern side of the state. This means Eichler owners, like everyone, will have to do some conserving.
I wanted to know how Eichler owners could most effectively conserve, so I called up Catherine Calvert, a utility account representative with the City of Palo Alto, to ask. She said that while Eichlers themselves don’t necessarily call for specialized water-saving practices, they do tend to be found in areas whose utilities are offering programs and even rebates to encourage water conservation.
"I don't think you're going to find much that's outside of the standard water uses in an Eichler compared to any other home. You've got showers, toilets, sinks, clothes washers, water heaters, outdoor landscaping, a pool."
However, the City of Palo Alto and the Santa Clara Valley Water district, of which it is a part, both offer rebates to residents who upgrade to more efficient toilets, clothes washers, and landscaping. "We do offer free water conservation devices as well, including low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators," Calvert said. But the rebates are where consumers can really make it worth their while to install efficient hardware, and they're available all over the Bay Area.
Installing toilets with an EPA Watersense label, for example, can yield rebates as high as $125, in Palo Alto, but residents must call first for preapproval. Also, refer back to my conversation with Eichler Network member Paul Gerrard, of Big Blue Plumbing, for some recommendations of low-flow toilets that work well with the Eichler look.
While Palo Alto's rebates are only for city residents, the Santa Clara Valley Water District's are quite similar, and offered to all residents of the district, which stretches from Palo Alto south to Gilroy. In addition to rebates, both Palo Alto and Santa Clara Valley offer house calls to assess your water efficiency.
Similarly, the East Bay Municipal Utilities District makes house calls and offers rebates to residents in Oakland, Walnut Creek, and Concord for toilets, clothes washers, and landscaping. Those in San Mateo, the Peninsula, and Hayward can find information on conservation, as well as rebates for toilets and washing machines, at the website for the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency. Up north, the Marin Municipal Water District offers rebates for high-efficiency toilets and washing machines, as well as for "smart irrigation" of landscaping. Finally, in San Francisco, the Public Utilities Commission offers rebates for toilets and washing machines.
We're all going to have to conserve water to beat this drought, but at least the Bay Area utilities are making it possible to ease the financial pinch of all those upgrades.