Some customers In Santa Clarita will see where they stand on an interactive water scale.
The Valencia Water Company will be offering a new tool for its 25,000 customers beginning this month. The Water SMART Allocation program will provide a graphic that determines how efficient residents are with their water, based on formulas unique to each property.
For indoor allocations, Valencia Water uses estimations from national studies that predict need. For outdoor allocation, however, the Company uses aerial maps to determine the size of customers' landscaped properties, and combines it with daily weather readings to gauge a much more specific glance at what the actual water need for the property was over the course of a given month.
The result is a side-by-side comparison of actual water use and estimated water need, thus placing the customer somewhere on the Water SMART scale. Placements include super efficient, efficient, inefficient, excessive and wasteful.
SMART stands for "Saving Money And Resources Today", and the program aims to help customers get a more accurate picture of how much water they should be using.
"There's a lot of research on Water SMART type programs, and other utilities in Southern California and the western United States have found that customers, if they're given information about their water use, will on a voluntary basis cut back or use water more efficiently," said Bob DiPrimio, president of Valencia Water Company. "Utilities have found that their customers have responded with about 20-30 percent reductions in water use simply by having information about the water they use compared to what is an efficient amount."
The Water SMART scale will appear on each customer's online account through www.valenciawater.com , and referenced on monthly bills. The scale will change every month, reflecting fluctuations in weather. In hotter months, the scale will adjust to allow for more water use. Likewise, during months with a high level of rain, the water consumption scale will be lower.
According to DiPrimio, Valencia Water estimates that two thirds of their customers are already within the "efficient" range, and the Water SMART program will target the remainder.
The program does not come with an immediate rate change for Valencia Water Company customers.
"This program is not geared to restrict water use for our customers," said DiPrimio. "For right now there is no impact on rates for 2010."
The program is a part of a proposal before the Public Utilities Commission, which requires that Valencia Water Company construct a tiered rate system. The proposal complements the Water SMART Program.
"If this program is approved, new rates will go into effect in January 2011," DiPrimio said. "So customers can get familiar with our Water SMART program and the allocations."
DiPrimio went on to say that this program won't be as broad as other tiered rates.
"The results by other utilities suggest that customers actually find this program more fair and equitable than other standard tiered-rate programs," he said. "The information we're providing is specific to the customers' needs. It's not based on some sort of overall average of water usage across a large area."
Another item prompting the need to be more efficient is a new state law that requires a per-capita reduction in water usage by 20 percent over the next 10 years. This comes on the heels of a major water delivery crisis in California, where local water companies are receiving a much smaller amount of state water. Read more about this crisis by clicking here. 
"We believe that efficient use of water is an important component of making sure that we have available water supplies for our customers on a long term basis," said DiPrimio.
The Valencia Water Company is one of four water companies that service the Santa Clarita Valley.
Below: An example of what customers will see in their online accounts.