Reader Profile: Patrick Pilz

Feb. 12, 2014

Patrick Pilz, CA American Water’s conservation manager, has spearheaded a number of projects as part of the mission of saving water. “We have a genuine interest because of decoupling,” he points out. One such program requires the client stick to a water budget. “We want them to know they’re being monitored,” says Pilz. “We’re not the water police, but we invest time and money heavily into the program. We want to make it clear this is something they should want because it lowers their water bill. We want it because we have to reduce our water usage by 20%.” (California’s Water Conservation Act sets a goal of 20% reduction in per capita urban water use by 2020).

The water management program for large landscape and commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) users tracks monthly water usage of some of CA American Water’s largest water users, sending monthly courtesy reminder e-mails and phone calls if usage exceeds a previously established voluntary monthly water budget. Budgets are established through a water survey, done at American Water’s cost and discussed with all stakeholders of a particular location: landscapers, property managers, accountants, and decision-makers who pay the water bill. An online tool enables customers to track monthly and historical usage. Another CA American Water program provides free installation of Ultra High Efficiency Toilets for low-income households with 0.8 gallons per flush; low-flow showerheads and aerators are installed as well. The Monterey Conservation Program offers rebates for a number of types of water consuming and water monitoring equipment in commercial and residential sectors. CA American Water’s conservation programs also includes a free rain sensor installation, free onsite Waterwise water surveys, a five-tier conservation rate design, and individual water budgets and allotments for all residential customers.

What He Does Day to Day
Pilz splits his time between customer service and water conservation tasks. He focuses on monitoring CII water usage. Pilz also fields phone calls from people requesting help in water conservation retrofits. He helps cut through the red tape inherent in some of the programs, such as contractual agreements for toilet installation and school-based conservation programs where educators have their own ideas of program implementation. Pilz and his staff also participate in public events, distributing information and showerheads. “It’s a lot of administrative work and a lot of fun work,” notes Pilz. He also participates in a state grant-funded sustainable landscape program in San Diego, where CA American Water has joined other entities to develop what Pilz calls the “gold standard” of landscape guides.

What Led Him to This Line of Work

Pilz, whose degrees are in economics and business, was previously a rate analyst for CA American Water. A Greenpeace member during college, his says he is not a “radical” environmentalist, but one who “wants to keep the Earth alive for future generations.” He says while there are times when his finance background seems exclusive from his sustainability work, they are, in fact, often mutually beneficial. His work in conservation rate design that assesses higher per-unit rates for higher water usage has an impact akin to conservation programs, he points out.

What He Likes Best About the Job
Pilz says he enjoys the daily customer contact and the variety in his work. Some customers are angry because “they don’t understand why their water bill is not $20 anymore and want to know what they’re getting for the water conservation surcharge,” he says. In contrast, there are positive phone calls and letters from customers who “very much appreciate that a water utility is serious about helping a customer save water and reduce their bills,” says Pilz.

Another rewarding experience: when a CII customer makes a significant investment in a retrofit, triggered by an American Water conservation plan. “It shows in our water reduction numbers,” he says.

What Is His Biggest Challenge
Pilz’ biggest challenge is staying on top of all of the projects with a staff of 12. He chooses to focus on what he can realistically accomplish. Additionally, no matter how hard he tries, Pilz cannot convince some customers there’s a water crisis. “They turn on the tap and water comes out,” he says. “They say, ‘We don’t have a water issue. That’s something made up by the media.'” 

About the Author

Carol Brzozowski

Carol Brzozowski specializes in topics related to resource management and technology.

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