In response to Governor Jerry Brown’s emergency drought declaration in 2014, Upper District’s Board of Directors unveiled a creative public outreach campaign known as the San Gabriel Valley Water Smart City Challenge. This program utilized existing conservation programs with innovative outreach components that encouraged cities to promote drought awareness to residents. It called upon all 18 cities within Upper District’s service area to lead by example and adopt best practices for water conservation by fulfilling 12 challenge requirements within a year, of which 12 cities participated.
The goal of the program was to draw awareness of the drought to the residents and seek a citywide water use reduction, adopt city policies that contribute to the overall sustainability of the of the San Gabriel River Watershed, and promote conservation and water-saving rebates for businesses and residents via the Southland’s regional rebate program: www.socalwatersmart.com.
In addition to promoting water-saving rebates, participating cities engaged their residents on water conservation and drought awareness through city websites, PSAs, social media and newsletters; hosted high efficiency toilet giveaways with their water retailer; hosted drought-tolerant landscape classes for their residents; and approved municipal ordinances that addressed citywide water conservation standards. Upon completion of the challenge, rebates paid to residents in Upper District’s service area increased by almost 1,100%.
In 2015, the cities of Azusa, Rosemead, and West Covina won and received $50,000 grants towards a sustainable watershed project from Upper District. In addition, South El Monte, Temple City, Glendora and South Pasadena were also recognized for completing the challenge and received the title of San Gabriel Valley Water Smart City. In addition, each of these winning cities received a large landscape survey and retrofit grant for their city halls from Upper District.
Today, this campaign has evolved into a the Water Smart Awards. Where every year during WaterFest a special city, legislator, organization or school is honored with the award. Three cities passed low-impact development storm water ordinances; five cities adopted model water conservation ordinances and 24 city councilmembers, and 26 city staff were educated through a variety of Upper District’s water-related forums and events.
Upon completion of the challenge, Upper District received the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments’ “2015 Sustainability Award” and the California Special Districts Association’s “2015 Excellence in Outreach Award.”