In 2011, Santa Monica City Council adopted a new plan aimed to reduce water use by about 20 percent by the year 2020. In support, City of Santa Monica contacted Community Corporation of Santa Monica with a pilot program to retrofit properties using product rebates funded by The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Community Corp. of Santa Monica owns and operates architecturally-significant and environmentally-sustainable affordable housing, and according to Project Manager John Mimms, the opportunity presented itself at the right time. “We employ green practices in everything that we do,” said Mimms. “When City of Santa Monica approached us, we were looking for the most efficient solution to reduce water usage while continuing to provide our residents with the best quality.”
According to Kim O’Cain, Senior Sustainability Analyst at City of Santa Monica, it was critical that the City begin to look for effective ways that would acquire maximum water and energy savings as well as provide long-term, sustainable results. O’Cain and team targeted Community Corp. as multi-family homes usually use more water.
Both organizations were already familiar with Niagara Conservation, therefore it was a unanimous decision to use the Ultra-High-Efficiency Technology (UHET) Water-Saving Kits for this initiative. In 2014, Community Corp.’s 5th and Wilshire property served as the pilot study and received numerous UHET kits, each one including an Original Stealth Toilet along with an Earth Massage 1.25 GPM Showerhead, 0.5 GPM bathroom aerators, and 1.5 GPM kitchen faucet aerators.
The 32 two- to three-bedroom unit property was selected because it would likely provide a greater opportunity for water savings given its higher occupancy. The replacement plumbing fixtures from Niagara were installed seamlessly within five business days. From older 1.6 GPF toilets to Niagara’s Original Stealth Toilet, the lowest single gallon toilet on the market at only 0.8 GPF, the property saw nearly immediate savings.
Within the first year after the retrofit, Community Corp’s 5th and Wilshire property saved more than 720,000 gallons of water and reduced utility costs by over $10,000 when compared to the previous year. Since the retrofit, the property has experienced 20-25 percent decreases in its annual water bills. Adding to these great savings, residents have had no issues with the new units since the completion of the installations, making product maintenance by Community Corp. nearly non-existent outside of routine check-ins with residents.This outstanding reduction in water and utility bills combined with the high satisfaction of the residents with the new units drove Community Corp. to retrofit approximately 30 more properties and 400 units by the end of 2015. These retrofits have enabled Santa Monica to reduce water usage citywide by 19.8 percent as of June 2015.
Now in what the organization is calling “Phase 2”, Community Corp. is working on retrofitting the remainder of its portfolio, which consists of about 50 properties with around 500 additional toilets, with Niagara’s UHET Water-Saving Kits. With Phase 2 underway, Santa Monica is on track to exceed the city council’s water conservation mandate of 20 percent by 2020 ahead of schedule.