Coping with water scarcity: The effectiveness of allocation-based pricing and conservation rebate program in California’s urban sector

California saw its driest year on record in 2013, and the drought is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. More than ever, urban water managers are seeking effective strategies to address water scarcity, with increasing interest in reducing residential water demand. To help achieve these goals, researchers at UCR’s School of Public Policy have partnered with local water agencies in an effort to evaluate the effectiveness of ongoing residential water conservation programs. Two general messages have emerged from from these partnerships to date. First, budget-based increasing block rate pricing structures can be an effective strategy for reducing per capita residential water use in a manner that can address both efficiency and equity issues confronting agencies. Second, while conservation programs, including many that have been offered by agencies to their residential customers in Southern California since the early 1990s, have been relatively successful in reducing per capita water use, any efforts to achieve further reductions in line with state mandates will likely require systematic evaluations of particular programs with the intent to better understand human behavior.