Water Utility Conservation and Efficiency

​Utility operations to achieve water conservation and efficiency 

Chapter PSC 185, Wis. Admin. Code requires every Wisconsin water utility to implement basic water conservation and efficiency measures, including:​

  • metering all water sales,​

  • conducting routine meter testing,​

  • monitoring losses and leaks in the distribution system, and​ 

  • collecting and reporting water audit information to the PSC

In addition, Chapter PSC 184, Wis. Admin. Code. requires any utility seeking authority to construct new water supply facilities provide additional information in their application for a certificate of authority from the Commission to construct the utility project. The additional information includes:

  • a description of measures the utility has taken to mitigate the need for the project

  • alternatives analysis

Conservation and efficiency measures can play a part in a utility’s water supply plan as well as its steps to delay, reduce, or eliminate the need to construct water supply infrastructure. 

See New Water Supply Construction Authorization Requirements for additional information on these requirements.

Successful Water Conservation Programs​

Water utilities often provide additional leadership and funding for community conservation efforts, which can include demand side measures such as water fixture rebates, incentive programs, education and outreach, customer water audits, restrictions on lawn watering, and water rates that encourage water efficient behavior. 

Water conservation programs also include supply side measures such as non-revenue water control. Successful water conservation programs combine both demand side and supply side efforts and are integrated into utilities' planning for future supply sources. Because each utility is unique, there is no single approach to water conservation that is appropriate for all. 

​See the 2011 Water Efficiency Potential Study for Wisconsin prepared by PSC and DNR that identifies cost effective ways for Wisconsin utilities to achieve conservation savings.​

​Utility Resources for Conservation Program Development

In addition to non-revenue water control resources, the following represent some resources for utilities:​

​Alliance for Water Efficiency

​American Water Works Association
​Environmental Protection Agency
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

PSC approval for rebate and incentive programs

The PSC does not require water utilities to implement demand management programs. Utilities wishing to implement voluntary demand management programs through customer-funded rebates and incentives must obtain PSC approval before spending funds on these efforts. The PSC reviews the utility’s proposed water conservation programs to ensure that any expenditures are cost-effective, reasonable, and in the public interest. 

​A utility interested in implementing a water conservation program can request funding for conservation efforts as part of its application for a rate increase. 

Alternatively, a utility may submit a letter requesting that the PSC approve its water conservation program outside of a rate case. A utility may use existing funding for these programs, or in some cases, the Commission may allow the utility to defer program costs for recovery in a future rate case. In either case, the utility must submit a water conservation plan that describes the proposed water conservation measures and demonstrates that the proposed measures are cost-effective and reasonable. PSC approval is not required for conservation programs funded entirely through wastewater rates or other municipal funds.

The PSC has developed additional materials to assist utilities in planning or evaluating their conservation programs.​

Utilities interested in adopting conservation rates 

Utilities that plan to adopt conservation-oriented rate structures can do so when filing an application for a conventional rate case. In some cases, a utility will need to provide more detailed billing system data to assist Commission staff in designing an appropriate rate structure.

For information on designing rates that achieve both conservation and revenue sufficiency objectives:

Consumer Resources

See For Consumers: Water and Sewer FAQs​​ for information to help customers save water.​