In 2020, the City of Westminster, Colorado, launched a pilot program to upgrade water fixtures in multi-family, affordable housing buildings, free of charge. The program is funded by the City and is implemented by Mile High Youth Corps, an AmeriCorps service organization. In its first year, Mile High Youth Corps replaced 83 toilets, 20 kitchen aerators, 84 bathroom aerators, and 8 showerheads across 72 residential units at an affordable-housing complex in Westminster. The new fixtures are all EPA WaterSense certified models that use at least 20% less water than the current industry standard with the same or better level of service.
Centering equity and affordability is a key driver of Westminster's program. The upgrades provide significant water and sewer bill savings for Maiker Housing Partners, the local Housing Authority that owns and manages the property. Staff evaluation of water savings from metered data at one of Maiker Housing Partners' locations following the efficiency upgrades show a 48% reduction of indoor water use that translates into ~$34,000 of reduced sewer bills for the 12-month billing period and ~$31,000 of reduced water bills, totaling $65,000 less on utility bills for this location. While the reduced water usage is likely not solely the result of the efficiency upgrades, they certainly played an important role. Another multi-family building that received efficiency upgrades reduced indoor water use by 18% resulting in a ~$5,000 reduction in utility bills. These utility bill savings will translate into greater access to affordable housing in Westminster, as the costs to the Housing Authority responsible for paying the water bills go down, the ability to add more units goes up. In addition, this work is cost effective. Westminster invested ~$30,000 on this project and realized a 2x return in year 1 for the customer. City staff plan to use this information to make the business case for market-rate multi-family housing owners to do similar efficiency retrofits.
This program also helps the City secure a long-term water supply for all customers. Given the community-wide water supply benefit of water efficiency programs, the City dedicated $100,000 in year two of the program to be funded as a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) project. Treating this efficiency retrofit program just like any other capital project with long-term water supply benefits provides access to larger dollar amounts for implementation and ensures program funding can carry over year to year for the CIP term. Click the link below to download a copy of Westminster's FY21 CIP; the multi-family water conservation program is listed on page 245.
WaterNow Alliance will continue to support Westminster's development and implementation of this important equity-focused, water efficiency program. Stay tuned for updates on this evolving program. In the meantime, learn more about Mile High Youth Corps' similar work in Aurora, Colorado.
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