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Rave reviews for water savings in Windsor

  • Carlos Ramirez of Sonoma Mountain Landscape digs holes for drought tolerant plants that will replace part of a lawn at a Windsor residence, Wednesday April 10, 2013. The Town of Windsor offers a program in which customers can opt in to install water and energy saving measures and pay a small surcharge on their bills over several years. The cost savings on water usage is much greater than the surcharge. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

An innovative water conservation program in Windsor is off to a promising start, drawing attention for saving millions of gallons while creating an immediate drop in residents' utility bills.

More than 300 residential customers have enrolled in the fledgling program, which is being touted as a model that could take off in other communities.

It allows residents to install devices such as low-flow toilets and showerheads, or to replace their water-guzzling lawns with drought-resistant plants, with no upfront costs or taking on debt.

Financed by the town, homeowners and renters pay for the upgrades over five to 15 years with a small surcharge on their utility bill.

The town guarantees the savings on the water bill will exceed monthly surcharges.

"The results are good. People are actually reducing usage and seeing savings," said Paul Piazza, Windsor's water conservation program coordinator.

Participating residents who are beginning to see a drop in their bills "get so excited," said Town Councilwoman Debora Fudge. "I would use the word 'ecstatic.'"

Fudge was in the majority of the 3-2 council vote that narrowly authorized the program last year. It's coming up again on Wednesday for a Town Council review of the pilot program.

Although individual household savings vary widely based on usage and the measures installed, officials say participants in the Windsor Efficiency PAYS, or Pay As You Save program, are saving an average of about $30 on their bi-monthly utility bills — after factoring in the surcharge.

So far it's amounted to approximately 10,000 gallons in water savings per household per year, or about three million gallons a year among all current participants.

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