Water School Curriculum

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A ‘Water School’ is a program designed and implemented by a local or regional water agency to educate customers on water use regulations and restrictions. Water School classes can be open to any agency customer or community member, but the classes target local water wasters. A Water School course is often offered as a means to avoid fines for water use infractions. In the same way that drivers who are cited for moving violations must take driver’s education courses, water wasters who exceed their water allotment or ignore water restrictions may be offered the opportunity to avoid a fine by attending Water School.

Benefits of Water School

Potentially, a Water School:

  • Targets water education to customers who need it most.
  • Increases community water education resources and water conservation awareness.
  • Increases customer understanding of where their water comes from, the severity of the drought and the impacts of the drought on their water sources.
  • Educates customers on existing water use restrictions and regulations that they may not have been aware of previously.
  • Provides customers with a cost-free alternative to paying a significant water infraction fine, replacing customer anger and frustration with knowledge and action strategies.
  • Creatively “penalizes” customers found in violation of water waste prohibitions while simultaneously educating them on the importance of water conservation and efficiency.
  • Capitalizes on agency “face-time” with a captive audience to also get the word out about other water agency programs, such as rebates or online customer data portals.
  • If offered as an alternative to a fine, a water school can dramatically reduce an agency’s case load, time, energy and cost of lengthy appeals process.

Development Time

To realize the benefits listed above, a water provider must invest staff time. The following are key actions necessary to develop and implement a Water School:

  • Curriculum Design/Revision
  • Penalty Dismissal System Design and Approval
  • Class-Scheduling and Site Logistics
  • Material Preparation
  • Instructor Training
  • Customer Outreach

An initial upfront time investment in program development and implementation is estimated to range from 50-70 hours.

Water School Program Design

Template Water School Curriculum

The following Water School curriculum template, modeled on the City of Santa Cruz’s Water School Curriculum, outlines key concepts to be included in water classes. It leaves details that may vary by geography or by agency to be filled in by agency staff members.

1. Class Logistics

  • Explain how the course will be provided.
    • Class schedule
    • Attendance
    • Testing
    • Class structure
    • Fee removal

2. Course Objectives

  • Identify primary Water School objectives such as ‘Convey the need for water regulations and restrictions;’ or ‘Repeal penalties;’ or ‘Provide students with relevant water conservation knowledge and tools’.

3. Course Topics

  • Identify primary Water School topics to cover during the course such as:
    • Agency water sources, and supply and distribution system (use maps when relevant)
    • Water service area description
    • Water supply/source review and current supply breakdown
    • Water treatment and distribution system descriptions
    • Water production/demand facts
  • Statewide and local climate conditions and predictions
    • Drought definition discussion
    • State drought status and ‘Drought Monitor’ system update
    • Local climate, drought, and water supply conditions
    • Water agency reduction target and achievement status
  • Utility services 101
    • Services provided
    • Customer breakdown
    • Water use by customer category
    • Metering/billing
  • Water use regulations and restrictions
    • History of local regulations/restrictions
    • Current federal, state, and local regulations and restrictions
    • Water shortage contingency plan/emergency drought stages and associated public requirements
    • Indoor vs. outdoor water use restrictions
    • Allotment calculations (if relevant)
    • Water waste hotline (or comparable phone-in tool)
    • Exemptions/exceptions
  • Water conservation and efficiency strategies
    • Water meter
      • Check leaks
      • Track consumption
    • Indoor use (show usage category breakdown)
      • Change habits
      • Repair leaks
      • Install efficient devices
      • Device use: toilets, faucets, showers, dishwashers, clothes washers
      • Outdoor use (show usage category breakdown)
      • Reduce irrigation
      • Repair leaks
      • Capture and reuse water
      • Re-landscape/replant
      • Tools: mulch, trees, graywater, rainwater, lawn conversion

4. Review

  • Distribute, monitor, and review a course quiz

Class Tips

The following bullet points offer guidance on establishing and running water education classes:

  • Maintain student accountability by treating the school as a “real class,” e.g., through the promise of a test/quiz, the instructor’s right to call on any student at any time, and group discussions with required participation.
  • Make available voluntary feedback forms (paper form, electronic form, online survey form, etc.).
  • Require a degree of student interaction and participation; avoid pure lecturing.
  • Integrate powerful imagery and infographics into teaching materials.
  • Minimize use of words on Power Point presentations.
  • Design presentations and teachings to suit the technical/scientific understanding of an 8th grader.
  • Segment the class into cohesive units or chapters with short breaks in between.
  • When possible, engage students on a personal level; ask for introductions, reasons for attending, and/or brief student background.

Class Logistics

The following is a simplified list of class logistics to consider when constructing a Water School Program:

  • When – Day, time, duration, repetition?
  • Where – Venue?
  • What – AV/IT equipment, student materials, instructor presentations, attendance records?
  • Who – Instructor, students, total numbers/program capacity?
  • How – How does penalty get revoked? How do you get students in the door?
  • Why – What is your agency’s primary objective for hosting a Water School? Focus content on that central objective.

Each agency will need to develop its own policy about allowing an agent to attend (or not) on behalf of the customer who received the penalty. The customer of record may not be able to attend or is a property management firm, so there needs to be flexibility in who is allowed to attend.

Penalty Dismissal System

The following are options for designing a penalty dismissal system to integrate with the Water School program:

  • Flat Rate – One class of X hours, or a series of X consecutive classes of X hours wipes a customer’s fine slate clean.
  • Tiered – A customer can attend up to X hours of Water School or X consecutive classes; each hour or class reduces his/her fine incrementally by X%.
  • Partial Break – One class of X hours, or a series of X consecutive classes of X hours reduces a customer’s fine by X%.
  • Test Contingent – Passing a Water School quiz or test repeals a customer’s fine, assuming OR regardless of class attendance.

Penalty dismissal needs to be closely coordinated with customer service and utility billing. Customer service representatives often first introduce customers to the concept of Water School and inform customers on the enrollment process. Customer service representatives or utility billing agents may also be responsible for actually adding and removing fines from customer bills. Agencies administer fine removal in two ways: 1) remove a customer’s penalty immediately after the customer enrolls; or 2) keep the charge and all penalties on the bill until a customer attends a class, then remedy all the billing charges.  In the case of the former, there needs to be a follow-up process to apply penalties back on the bill in the event of a no-show; however, this approach can create additional administrative burden for utility billing representatives.

Examples

City of Santa Cruz

The City of Santa Cruz is among the few agencies to have designed and implemented a Water School for water abusers. Their Water School website and curriculum can be found at the following links along with relevant press on the release of their Water School:

Santa Cruz Water School

http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/departments/water/2014-drought/water-school

Santa Cruz Water School Curriculum

http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/home/showdocument?id=40732

Santa Cruz Water School Press

http://www.breitbart.com/california/2014/07/17/water-school-opens-in-santa-cruz-erases-fines-for-overuse/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/09/california-water-wasters-school_n_5664429.html http://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2014/07/18/38441/water-school-santa-cruz-offers-classes-to-waive-fi/

City of Sacramento

The City of Sacramento also offers educational programs as an alternative to customer fines. Their program is based on attending a ‘Water Conservation Workshop.’ Workshops are offered roughly once a month, and participants can sign up through the City of Sacramento’s website: http://portal.cityofsacramento.org/Utilities/Conservation/Conservation-Calendar.

Additional Resources

The following are additional water education resources and tools that may be presented in a Water School course as class material or that may be provided to the customer for additional educational opportunities:

Partnership Opportunities

Consider reaching out to local water and community partners for opportunities to share Water School hosting responsibilities and to leverage existing programs’ efforts instead of duplicating work.


The complete Jumpstart Water Shortage Toolkit includes:

  1. – Model Water Shortage Contingency Plans
  2. – Water Waste Ordinances and Enforcement Primer
  3. – Water Shortage Pricing Primer
  4. – Water Loss and Supply Alternatives Primer
  5. – Customer Programs and Communication/Outreach Primer
  6. – Local Water Supply Fact Sheet
  7. – Water Use and Loss Awareness Resources
  8. – Water School Curriculum
  9. – Water Resource Funding Primer


Tools are available to view or download at http://www.cuwcc.org The Council is grateful to the following individuals for helping Council staff to develop, edit and review the Jumpstart Water Shortage Toolkit: Russell Frink, Charlie Pike, Sharon Fraser, William Granger and Toby Goddard. The Toolkit was made possible by the financial assistance of the California Department of Water Resources and Council membership dues.

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Has introductionA ‘Water School’ is a program designed and
A ‘Water School’ is a program designed and implemented by a local or regional water agency to educate customers on water use regulations and restrictions. Water School classes can be open to any agency customer or community member, but the classes target local water wasters. A Water School course is often offered as a means to avoid fines for water use infractions. In the same way that drivers who are cited for moving violations must take driver’s education courses, water wasters who exceed their water allotment or ignore water restrictions may be offered the opportunity to avoid a fine by attending Water School.
to avoid a fine by attending Water School. +
Has primary imageDrip-watering.png +