Skip to page body Home About Us What's New City Government Departments Living Visiting Doing Business I Want To...

 flow rate  dishwasher 

report cover

 hecw  commercial racks


How Water-Efficient is Our Community?


Customer Groups Surveyed

Single Family Homes and Duplexes

Multi-family Residences
     • Apartment complexes
     • Condominiums
     • Mobile Home Parks

     • Hotels and Motels
     • Restaurants
     • Schools
     • Laundromats
     • Retail Stores
     • Offices
     • Medical and Dental Facilities
     • Hospitals

Over the past four decades, the Santa Cruz Water Department has provided water conservation assistance to the community. Before investing in the next generation of water-saving technologies and programs, we wanted to take stock of the progress made to date. Which programs have been most effective? How many and what type of water-efficient fixtures are already in use? Where are the future opportunities? 


To answer these questions, the water conservation office completed a Water Use Baseline Survey in 2013. The study inventoried water-using fixtures and landscapes at 395 randomly selected homes and businesses. In-person site visits were conducted by professional water surveyors at each site. The data collected during the survey has been used to help develop new conservation measures as part of the City’s updated Water Conservation Master Plan (due in 2014).


Baseline Survey Results

 Below are a few highlights from the baseline survey results. Additional data and details are included in the full report.


 Proportion of Fixtures that are Water-Efficient

 Single Family Homes  

 Multi-Family Homes  






  Washing Machines  


(in the home)
(in laundry rooms)









(depending on type of faucet) 


Toilet Transformation toilet

 Most homes in the water service area were built pre-1992, before water-efficient toilets were widely available. We were surprised to discover residents have swapped out many of these original fixtures. Survey results indicate 90 % of toilets in single family homes and 89% in multi-family are water-efficient models (defined as 1.6 gallons per flush or less). Overall, 96% of toilets in businesses are efficient. The Water Conservation Office has worked to expedite toilet replacement through rebate incentives and ordinance requirements. In addition, federal and state plumbing codes have required the sale of water efficient toilets over the last twenty years. Together, water conservation programs along with the codes, has resulted in the high volume of efficient toilets currently being used in Santa Cruz.

Washing Machine Upgrades


 Rebate incentives encourage
customers to select high
efficiency clothes washers.

A recent California residential water use study concluded about 30% of washing machines in single family homes were efficient (defined in this study as using 30 gallons per load or less). The Santa Cruz Baseline Survey found 63 percent of our single family homes already have high efficiency clothes washers in place. Results from these studies indicate Santa Cruz continues to be a front runner in water conservation efforts compared to other communities in the state. However, we will continue to work to accelerate the replacement of the remaining inefficient washers in our service area.


Landscape Overview
landscapeThe landscape surveys provided detailed information about outdoor water uses. Lawn, a high water use plant, was found in only about half of residential properties and just 15 percent of the business sites (which included schools). For single family homes, less than 1/3 of the total landscape is typically devoted to lawn. Multi-family complexes were found to have about an even mix of lawn and other landscape plants. Other than schools, most commercial properties do not have lawn. Water-efficient drip irrigation was found in 44 percent of single family homes, 22 percent of multi-family, and 25 percent of businesses. These averages provide an overview of typical landscapes. However, survey results showed that landscapes vary a lot between properties in size, planting palette, and irrigation equipment used. This diversity adds an extra challenge when designing outdoor conservation programs and estimating the associated water savings.

Water Conservation of the Future
Water conservation has been an essential component of the City’s water management planning efforts. While Santa Cruz may pride itself on all of its water conservation achievements, it also means future savings will be harder to come by. The Baseline Survey results will help us select new water conservation programs and technologies that target the greatest remaining water conservation potential.

Last updated: 11/6/2013 8:46:04 AM