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Fresno Runs Social Experiment To Stop Water Wasters

Jul 22, 2015

The black and white fliers had an 8% higher compliance rate than the color fliers.

What’s the difference between a smiling mascot and a stern warning? More than 2. 5 million gallons of water a month in Fresno. That’s according to a social experiment the city ran to encourage greater water conservation.

Fresno used data from the city’s water meters to target people watering on non-approved days and sent each home one of two different fliers.

One is black and white and appears very serious. The other is in color and features a playful mascot.

Fresno Public Utilities director Tommy Esqueda says in the end the more official mailing was more effective…but only slightly, getting 87% compliance versus 79%.

“Our thought was that the black and white would be more official looking. People would take more time to look. The other one looked more like an advertisement I would get from a company,” Esqueda said.

Still, that improvement accounts for more than 2.6-million gallons of water that could have been saved in May.

The outreach is having an effect with the number of homes watering daily falling for a high a 5,500 in June to around 2,000 in July. Esqueda says one challenge now is that the people over watering is constantly shifting.

“It is not a consistent group but there is probably about 1,000 that show up on the list month after month that we may need to throw a little more energy at to try and get them to conserve,” Esqueda said.

The city is also increasing its use of fines, issuing 1,700 fines in June. However, Esqueda says unlike some other California cities Fresno is not considering using water restriction devices to force decrease uses.