capital of Washington State, located at the tip of the Puget
Sound and on the edge of the beautiful Olympic Mountains
may seem an odd place for a water conservation program, but
the city has had one since 1997 and has expanded in scope every
year since its inception.
would an area that gets over 50 inches of rain a year, has very
mild weather and seemingly ready access to unlimited water need
such a program?
Growth and drought - the state capital is growing and with growth
comes increasing demand on all the natural resources, including
water. Olympia receives plenty of rain most of the year; however,
in July and August it gets only 2 inches of rain. This period
coincides with the biggest water use months of the year. This
lack of rain during peak season and population growth has led
the city to create a multi-faceted program. The program is inclusive
of other agencies and departments and some of its key aspects
Annual rain barrel sales at a subsidized price
· Free rain gauges and rain sensors
· Free irrigation checkups for high water user customers
· Low water-use washing machine rebates
· Education seminars and information
the programs working? Yes, according to locals and to support
this claim they point to two very different and compelling facts:
1) overall water use has declined since the program started
even though the population has grown and the area is in the
midst of a drought and 2) more and more households are letting
their yards go brown during the peak summer months.
would have almost never seen a brown lawn prior to the program,"
says Tikva Breuer, Water Conservation Program specialist for
the city. "Now you can see several houses in a row with
dominant lawns with a few having Sleeping Lawn signs
and this would have not been the case just a few years ago."
The Sleeping Lawn program is used to educate and encourage residents
not to water their lawns during the summer months.
the city can fine for over use of water it has an innovative
program to encourage compliance instead of using fines. Through
the use of night-time drive arounds as well as examination of
water billing records the city attempts to find the largest
water users and then inform them of the various programs available
to assist them in lowering their water bills. Most customers
opt to find out more and in fact reduce their water consumption
between 17-20% by following the actions recommended by city
city programs are not limited to just residential users but
also include programs designed specifically to reduce water
use at new and existing commercial and government buildings.
With the Water Smart Technology program, businesses and government
offices can receive rebates when they install approved water-efficient
fixtures. For example, through this program, Olympia businesses
have received rebates for replacing water-cooled ice machines
with air-cooled models, collectively saving over 2 million gallons
of water every year.
education programs like the Sleeping Lawn program, the annual
rain barrel sale event, the commercially-oriented Water Smart
Technology program and partnering with local businesses and
volunteers to build one water wise garden a year at a local
school - the city is building broad awareness of the need for
Washington state's new "green building law" requiring
schools, universities and other public buildings to be built
to meet energy efficiency, water conservation and other environmental
standards approved in March 2005, the city will continue to
investigate new ways and programs to broaden both its reach
and effectiveness of their water conservation efforts.
conservation is viewed as a must in order to insure a high-quality
water supply will be available for Olympia residents in the
near and distant future, as well as protect local freshwater
habitats and the fish and wildlife that depend on them.
other cities interested in building a broad, inclusive program
the lessons learned from Olympia can be applied whether just
starting a program or building on an existing program:
Repeat rationale for conservation over and over in as
many different venues as possible. Changing behavior is hard,
especially behavior learned over a lifetime.
2) Target different programs to different audiences.
One size fits all will not work with conservation programs.
Tailor different programs for businesses versus residential
3) Partner with others in the community that share your
Area Population: ~42,000
Altitude: ~ 0 ft/m
Low - High Temp: 32F/76F - 0C/24C
Avg. Rainfall: 50 in/127cm
Conservation Program Inception: 1997
Water Conservation Program
City of Olympia
PO Box 1967
Olympia, WA 98507-1967
Rainbarrel Rebate: No, subsidized sale
Rainwater Harvesting Rebate: Yes, pilot
Low Flush Toilet Rebate: Commercial
Xeriscape Rebate: No
Low Flow Washing Machine Rebate: Yes
Low Flow Dish Washer Rebate: Yes
Watering Restrictions: Yes
Education Program: Yes
Commercial Programs: Yes
Sales Tax Exemption: No
Property Tax Exemption: No