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City of Ashland urges water conservation

Mount Ashland produced a good supply of water for the city this spring, but Robbin Pearce is concerned about how much of it Ashlanders put down the drain.

Pearce, the City of Ashland's Water Conservation Analyst for seventeen years, is constantly seeking innovative conservation techniques. She also wants Ashland residents to know a few tips on water conservation throughout the hot summer.

"People, just pay attention to the weather," says Pearce, explaining that August is the second highest month in terms of water usage for the city, just behind July. "Water to the weather and understand what your (irrigation) system really does. Take advantage of any system that benefits your energy and water needs."

"People shouldn't make radical transitions to their irrigation systems during these hot months, they are high stress times for plants," says Pearce. "But we can help show them to make gradual changes that are beneficial and how to look for irrigation leaks." Pearce also wants to point out that she is available to offer water audits designed to show citizens of Ashland how they can save more on their water bills.

Ashland's water comes from the Mount Ashland snow caps, which melt into underground springs and emerge into the Reeder reservoir. "We're lucky to have had a good year for water," says Pearce. "But we should always try to conserve." Pearce then explains the hydro-illogic cycle; in which often citizens only worry about preserving their water supply when it's already too late.

To help fight this cycle, the City of Ashland offers many current rebates and discounts based on the citizenry's use of water-conserving appliances. "We'll switch your shower heads, discuss rebate options and help you conserve water," says Pearce, adding that these city services are free to all Ashland Utility customers, be they citizens or business owners.

Ashland also has the "Green Business Program," where Pearce and power representatives tag-team local businesses and compile reports on how to economize every aspect relevant to utility usage incorporating everything from traffic flow to waste management.

Pearce explains that the City of Ashland is always open to customer ideas. "Often customers call in with ideas that I then explore," says Pearce. "We're really only limited by building and plumbing codes." Two ideas helped forwarded by Ashland residents that the city is currently working with are water catchments and rain-barreling.

"Right now, we're really excited to investigate new ways of saving rainwater or reuse water for irrigation purposes," says Pearce. "This technology is advancing all over the world."

Seven years ago, Pearce helped advocate for the Parks Commission to get a universalized weather station. This assesses the city's micro-climates and irrigates according to specific weather-based needs rather than on arbitrary schedules. "I couldn't say how much, but this system has definitely saved the city a lot of money over the years," says Pearce.

Now Pearce wishes that local businesses and homeowners will begin to follow suite. "We're hoping in the next couple years that the next rebate system the city can offer will be for weather-based irrigation controllers."

Pearce wants to remind townsfolk that conservation isn't a dire or sacrificial practice. "Rather," she says, "think of it as a lifestyle mindset of doing the right thing."

When Pearce, a Southern Oregon University graduate with a degree in Biology, started working for the City of Ashland, she hadn't planned to become its water maestro. Rather she wanted to work with energy on general. "I always knew that water was a valuable resource," says Pearce. "Now I just know a lot more about it."

Pearce looks forward to great things in Ashland's hydro-future. "I feel very fortunate that the community I live in is so challenged by wanting to do the right thing. I've lived here since 1971, have raised my kids here and own property here," says Pearce. "I have a vested interest in this town, this isn't just a job to me."

To learn more about water conservation or potential rebates, call Robbin Pearce at 552-2062 or email her at pearcer@ashland.or.us.