By LAURIE LUCAS
Western Municipal Water District’s participation in a program that this week will finish delivering 1,500 water-saving toilets at no cost to Riverside County homes, hotels and commercial buildings is in limbo because of doubt about whether Western will receive promised rebates.
In the past three months, the Mission Inn, UC Riverside and March Air Reserve Base received a total of 1,000 of the toilets, and 500 went to Corona, mostly to multifamily residences such as apartments.
One low-flow toilet will save about 2 gallons per flush or 4,800 gallons a year, according to Clay Monroe, water conservation coordinator with Riverside Public Utilities.
But the program was suspended because of the uncertainty of reimbursement from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said Tim Barr. He’s the water use efficiency manager for Western, which covers 527 square miles serving 853,000 people in the Jurupa Valley, Corona, Norco, Riverside, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake and Temecula. Besides Riverside, the city of Corona also worked closely with Barr to promote the project.
Metropolitan’s blanket program, “SoCal Water$mart” was designed as a conservation incentive for the 26 cities and agencies that buy its water in six counties for 19 million people. Rebates on high-efficiency toilets and other equipment had been available to residents of areas that receive MWD water, including Eastern and Western municipal water districts in Riverside County and Inland Empire Utilities Agency in western San Bernardino County.
Barr said Western drew up its own marketing campaign touting low-flow toilets.
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William Wilson Lewis III / The Press-Enterprise
Michael Franchek, vice president of sales and marketing with Ecogreen Services, removes a 3.5-gallon toilet from an apartment in Riverside.
Eastern installed 8,000 of the low-flow toilets this last fiscal year. The agency has shelved requests for another 1,500 until Metropolitan resolves its budget problems. Perris-based Eastern serves an area from Moreno Valley south to Temecula and east to Hemet and San Jacinto.
The Inland Empire Utilities Agency installed 4,256 low-flow toilets this last fiscal year. Chino-based Inland serves the cities of Chino, Chino Hills, Fontana, Montclair, Ontario, and Upland as well as the Cucamonga Valley and Monte Vista Water Districts and the Water Facilities Authority.
Initially, Metropolitan agreed to pitch in anywhere from $50 to $100 per toilet; Western would pick up the rest of the cost from its rate payers. But because Metropolitan didn’t have the money to cover the overwhelming demand for rebates, Western could be on the hook for anywhere from $65 to $110 per toilet, Barr said. “So Metropolitan is suspending its commercial program from three to six months until after an audit and they figure out how to go forward,” Barr said.
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Low-flow toilets save about 2 gallons per flush, or 4,800 gallons a year, conservation experts say.
MWD’s regional rebate program is $24 million in the hole. The program started with $20 million, which doubled last February. Those resources dried up in May and the board turned off the spending tap until an audit is complete. A report is expected at the next board meeting, July 14.
The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, the regional equivalent of Metropolitan, serving 700,000 water users over 350 square miles, might offer a similar water conservation program, according to Douglass Headrick, deputy general manager. “We’re watching to see how this will play out with Metropolitan,” he said.
PROGRAM WINDS DOWN
Meanwhile, Western’s program is winding down this week with toilet installations concluding in the Sandra Apartments on 7th Street in Riverside, said contractor Michael Franchek.
His Encinitas-based company, Ecogreen Services, contracted with Western Municipal in April to install 1,500 toilets at $165 apiece. Since April, Franchek has placed 80 percent of the new toilets in multi-family residences and the rest in hotels and commercial buildings.
Low-flow toilets look no different from their predecessors and cost about the same, according to Franchek.
“They flow a lot less because of their intelligent design,” he said.
The old fixtures use 3.5 gallons per flush while their replacements use less than 1.3 gallons per flush. Recyclers grind up the put-out-to-pasture toilets which are used as construction aggregate.
Russ Kitchen, director of the Mission Inn’s property operations, said he’s pleased with the 80 new low-flows, the latest in the hotel’s efforts to go green.
“We’re always looking for ways to conserve our natural resources,” he said. Management has retrofitted its cooling center to use less energy and replaced most lighting with fluorescent bulbs.
Reach Laurie Lucas at 951-368-9569 or llucas@PE.com
TO SAVE WATER
Take shorter showers
Turn off the faucet when brushing teeth
Water your lawn only when it needs it
Use a broom to clean driveways and sidewalks
Adjust sprinklers so they don’t water driveways and sidewalks
Wash only full loads of laundry
Run dishwasher only when full
Fix leaky faucets and toilets
Use a shut-off nozzle on your hose
Plant drought-resistant trees and plants
Source: Western Municipal Water District
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