Performance Measurement Used Successfully in Kelowna

The 2004 Water Conservation Survey—conducted by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the Water Sustainability Committee of the B.C. Water and Waste Association—showed that only 29 percent of water utilities are using performance measures to determine if they are achieving their water conservation objectives. Of note, though, is that almost half of those not using performance measures are considering doing so in the future.

Performance measurement is a technique for evaluating a conservation program’s success in achieving its objectives. It may be undertaken to meet legislative requirements; to increase organizational accountability; to set priorities and allocate resources; and/or to improve program delivery, budgeting, and strategic planning purposes. Performance indicators are simply data that provide evidence of the extent to which a program has been successful.

To measure performance utilities must:

  • identify program objectives;
  • define indicators that measure progress toward achieving objectives;
  • collect accurate indicator data; and
  • compare indicator values to pre-program values or targets and benchmarks.

A directed studies project initiated in January 2004 set out to investigate the performance measurement of water conservation programs in B.C. and other jurisdictions. Eight proactive utilities were surveyed and four case studies were collected.

The utilities surveyed have implemented a wide range of water conservation initiatives, with the fundamental objective of reducing water consumption. The most common indicator used is a measure of water consumption such as litres per capita per day or cubic meters. Metering has been found to greatly facilitate both the measurement of water consumption and program performance, and the implementation of sophisticated conservation programs. Most utilities measure program success through a comparison of pre- and -post program consumption rates.

The utilities identified several barriers to performance measurement, including problems with data collection and management, difficulty in attributing observed results to programs, insufficient resources, and lack of community consensus on objectives.

Potential approaches to encouraging the use of performance measurement could include support for metering initiatives, development and dissemination of information, networking, training, and conditional infrastructure funding.

Kelowna’s Peak Demand Initiative

One case study involved the City of Kelowna Water utility, which in 2001 launched an incentive program to tackle the problem of peak summer demand. Analysis of meter data allowed the utility to identify and focus its resources on the highest-consumption customers, maximizing program effectiveness; and to evaluate the success of each individual incentive in reducing water use.


In 1997, Kelowna’s water utility installed meters at all of its residential service connections (industrial, commercial, and institutional customers were already metered). It implemented a constant rate structure based on metered consumption in 1998, and full cost-recovery rates in 2000. By 2001, average residential water use had been reduced by 19 percent, but with Kelowna’s semi-arid climate and generally poor soil conditions, outdoor water use by residents irrigating their lawns and gardens continued to soar during the summer. A 2001 study estimated that a 16 percent reduction in water use during the summer peak demand period, when water use is at its highest, could defer or eliminate the need for $16 million in infrastructure expansions. In response, Water Smart, Kelowna’s water conservation public education program, made reducing peak demand a priority.

Program Delivery and Results

Using meter data, Water Smart staff identified the Kelowna neighbourhood with the highest average water consumption, and in 2001 launched a pilot program that offered residents incentives to reduce their outdoor water use. Water Smart’s analysis had found that poor soil conditions, inefficient automatic irrigation systems, and lack of education were the three major factors contributing to the neighbourhood’s high water use; and it designed incentives to address these factors. Residents were invited to participate in the program and were offered a choice of incentives:

  • Lawn aeration and top dressing with Ogogrow (composted biosolids from Kelowna’s wastewater treatment plant)
  • Professional irrigation system assessment and cost-shared improvements
  • Customer education (a water audit and irrigation system assessment by Water Smart staff.

Meter data revealed that participants’ July 2001 water use decreased by an average of 26 percent from the previous year (with weather factored out of the results), and that the most effective incentive was education.

In 2002, Water Smart expanded the incentive program to two additional neighbourhoods, and participants were offered a choice of Ogogrow, a water-efficient irrigation time, or education. Water use decreased by an average of 13 percent overall, but meter data showed that incentives that produced a significant water use reduction in one neighbourhood were only marginally effective in another area, and need to be tailored to the target neighbourhood.

The 2001 and 2002 programs clearly demonstrated that incentives can reduce peak demand substantially. Water Smart now uses meter data to identify and offer incentives to customers with the highest water use, in each of the three high-consumption areas, along with educational outdoor “tent events,” hosted by the neighbourhood, to raise awareness of the program.

For more information contact Neal Klassen, Water Smart Coordinator, at 250-868-3339 or, or visit