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Advancing Water Efficiency for Low-Income Multifamily Housing in Southern California

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Area: 5888268 km2
Brazil; Peru; Suriname; France; Colombia; Guyana; Bolivia; Venezuela; Ecuador
Santa Cruz; Manaus; La Paz
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Countries: United States of America
Regions: California
Project SDGs:
Includes Sustainable Development Goals from the project and its locations.
Water Use Efficiency (SDG 6.4)
Progress to Date: 2,400 Number of leak sensors installed
Services Needed: Communications & outreach
Financial support
Desired Partner: Other
Language: English
Start & End Dates: Jan. 2021  »  Ongoing
Contextual Condition(s): PHYSICAL: Water scarcity or drought
Beneficiaries: Water utilities, Local communities / domestic users
Planning & Implementation Time: More than 3 years
Financial Resources: More than $500,000 USD
Primary Funding Source: pool
Project Challenges: RESOURCES: Insufficient data / Data access
Project Source: User
Profile Completion: 80%

Project Overview

Read the latest blog post here: Saving Water, Time, and Money by Fixing Leaks in Affordable Housing

Advancing Water Efficiency through Leak Detection in Low-Income Multi-Family Housing in Southern California

Southern California frequently experiences droughts and water scarcity, which are part of a broader trend of aridification in the Southwestern United States due to climate change. As water resources become increasingly constrained, innovative technologies can play a key…

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Read the latest blog post here: Saving Water, Time, and Money by Fixing Leaks in Affordable Housing

Advancing Water Efficiency through Leak Detection in Low-Income Multi-Family Housing in Southern California

Southern California frequently experiences droughts and water scarcity, which are part of a broader trend of aridification in the Southwestern United States due to climate change. As water resources become increasingly constrained, innovative technologies can play a key role in improving water efficiency and contributing to a water-resilient future. Starting in 2021, an unlikely coalition of allies came together to develop a project that saves water, saves energy, and supports low-income residents by finding and stopping water wasted from leaky toilets in multi-family housing.

The Partners: This project was developed through the California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC) and is made possible by a unique collaboration among the Pacific Institute, Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), Sensor Industries, water utilities, nonprofit housing groups, and corporations. Water utility partners to date include Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), and Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD). Housing partners include Mercy Housing, Retirement Housing Foundation, Collegiate Housing Foundation, and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA). Corporate partners to date include Google, Procter & Gamble, Target, The Coca-Cola Company, Cummins Foundation, Ecolab Foundation, and Arrowhead Water. The pilots are supported by corporate funding and water utility rebates.

The Technology: While there have been important improvements in urban water efficiency over the past decades, leaky toilets remain a leading source of water waste inside the home, regardless of the efficiency of the toilet. In multi-family housing in particular, toilet leaks are notoriously hard to catch, with multiple units dependent on a single meter and no easy way for property managers to identify leaks unless tenants alert them to a problem. The leak detection solution used in this project includes an in-line sensor on every toilet in the building. The sensors are connected in a wireless network, which identify leaks and send immediate alerts to property managers and maintenance teams in real time.

The Results: Pilots deployed across three nonprofit-owned, low-income, multi-family buildings in Los Angeles are reducing water use (and water bills) by 15 percent, increasing maintenance efficiency for affordable housing managers, and supporting regional water resilience in the face of drought. The three pilots, which include a total of 1,200 sensors, are expected to save 6.3 million gallons per year over the next 10 years. Based on our research to date, each toilet sensor installed in a large (100+ unit) multi-family building saves an estimated 5,000 gallons per year. Beyond water savings, this project also helps building owners and managers improve maintenance workflow by providing leak alerts in real time and streamlining the process of receiving and responding to work orders.

Scaling Potential: This project uses an innovative technology that meets the need for better leak detection solutions for multi-family housing, it uses a unique co-funding model that can quicken the pace and scale of water efficiency improvements, and it can help renters and low-income residents overcome barriers to participation in water efficiency programs. While we are piloting this project in Los Angeles, this approach is transferrable across the United States and globally. More pilots are under development in California, Arizona, Texas, and New York. In addition to deploying more sensor installations, the Pacific Institute is also working to identify new partners, programs, and policies that can help scale this project beyond individual pilots to widespread implementation.

Project Contact: Cora Snyder, Pacific Institute, csnyder@pacinst.org

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Basin and/or Contextual Conditions: PHYSICAL: Water scarcity or drought
Indirect or Direct Beneficiaries: Water utilities, Local communities / domestic users
Months & Implementing: More than 3 years
Financial Resources: More than $500,000 USD
Primary Funding Source: Pool funding (i.e., joint funding of several partners)
Challenges: RESOURCES: Insufficient data / Data access

Partner Organizations

Cummins is an American Fortune 500 corporation that designs, manufactures, and distributes engines, filtration, and power generation products. Learn More

The Pacific Institute envisions a world in which society, the economy, and the environment have the water they need to thrive now and in the future. In pursuit of this vision, the Institute creates and advances solutions to the world’s … Learn More

The CEO Water Mandate mobilizes business leaders to advance water stewardship, sanitation, and the Sustainable Development Goals – in partnership with the United Nations, governments, peers, civil society, and others. Endorsers of the CEO Water Mandate recognize that they can … Learn More

Water scarcity in California is rapidly increasing due to unsustainable water use and decreasing supply reliability. Worsening droughts, intensifying wildfires, and degradation of freshwater ecosystems, all amplified by climate change, are further threatening water supplies for people and nature. To … Learn More

The Procter &amp; Gamble Company is an American multi-national consumer goods corporation headquartered in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Learn More

BEF scopes, develops, supports, and designs environmental water programs and projects across the U.S. The organization has been instrumental in building an NGO-led environmental water stewardship movement around Western Water issues and volumetric flow solutions. BEF collaborated in the creation … Learn More

The Water Resilience Coalition, founded in 2020, is an industry-driven, CEO-led coalition of the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate that aims to elevate global water stress to the top of the corporate agenda and preserve the world's freshwater resources … Learn More

Leonardo Rodriguez
Cora Snyder
Primary Contact  


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