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Business not going with the flow, yet

Less than half have installed water-efficient fixtures before the Nov. 1 deadline and a 25% surcharge, officials say.

July 31, 2010|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com

Less than half of all business owners in Burbank have installed water-saving fixtures in advance of the Nov. 1 deadline that will mark the beginning of a 25% surcharge on water bills for delinquent customers, officials said.

Enacted as part of the new rate plan established last year, the deadline has already been extended beyond June 30 until the end of October, yet only 45% of businesses have returned certificates of compliance, officials said.

Burbank Water and Power has been pushing those under deadline at least twice since the beginning of the calendar year, but only half of the remaining 55% have confirmed they are "working on it," customer programs assistant Karen Wilcox said.

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Utility customers are being asked to replace older toilets with those that use 1.6 gallons per flush and replace aerators in kitchen and bathroom faucets with a lower flow rate.

Burbank Water and Power offers a rebate of $100 to replace older toilets for high-efficiency models that use 1.28 gallons per flush.

"Many customers are happy for the rebate," Wilcox said. "With the rebate, the toilet is basically free. I've had some people come back and say they like the new showerheads better than their older, higher flow ones."

Customers can also get free showerheads and aerators from Burbank Water and Power.

Utility officials have emphasized that the surcharge is compliance, not penalties, in order to help the city combat the water crisis the entire state faces, said Jeanette Meyer, marketing manager for Burbank Water and Power.

"It's about striking a balance of what's reasonable to ask of customers and what we need to do to conserve water," she said.

Certain businesses, such as restaurants, pet groomers and beauty salons, are exempt from the aerator requirement due to health codes, but customers say they are concerned about the amount of water pressure and efficiency of the newer, more water-saving units.

Pat Rude, current house director of a USC sorority and former conservation technician with Burbank Water and Power, retrofitted the entire Delta Delta Delta house with dual-flush toilets. The toilets use 0.8 gallons per flush for liquids and paper and 1.6 gallons for everything else.

Affectionately referred to as "the toilet lady" during her time in Burbank, she said she has not had a single clogged toilet since she installed the low-flow models eight years ago.

"I've saved $3,500 to $5,500 a year in water bills, and you won't believe what gets flushed down the drain here," Rude said.

In an ordinance passed by the Burbank City Council last week, all properties must now retrofit faucets and toilets upon resale as a condition of escrow.

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