Atlanta—The state of Georgia has become the first state to require by law the submetering of multifamily, commercial and industrial buildings.
The state recently passed the Water Stewardship Bill (Senate Bill 370), which will require higher efficiency standards for plumbing fixtures, as well as standardized water loss reporting by public water utilities; metering of multifamily, commercial and industrial construction; and a statewide outdoor watering schedule.
The apartment industry has received this news with mixed opinions, notes Steve Sadler, vice president, strategic business services at Atlanta-based Post Properties. For Post, for example, it doesn’t make much of a difference since the company already submeters. But, he notes, “From what I’ve been hearing, some owners are concerned about the new rule because they don’t have internal resources and the bandwidth to do [submetering] internally and will have to hire an outside source.” He adds, “and the recovery rate of your expense tends to be significantly less than what you’re laying out, so small- and mid-sized [owners] are concerned about getting their recovery back.”
Before August 1, 2010, the bill states, the agencies (including the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and its Environmental Protection Division, the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Georgia Department of Community Health, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission)“shall examine their practices, programs, policies, rules and regulations to identify opportunities to provide enhanced programming and incentives for voluntary conservation.” This will include encouraging all existing multifamily developments that are not currently submetered to install meters.
The bill also mandates that any new multifamily buildings that are permitted on or after July 1, 2010 must “be constructed in a manner which will permit the measurement by a county, municipal, or other public water system or by the owner or operator of water use by each unit.” This does not apply, however, to any building previously constructed but renovated after the deadline.
California and Texas have also adopted similar high-efficiency plumbing standards that will take effect in 2014, but Georgia’s new law requires compliance by July 2012.
“Other states should look at it from the perspective of encouraging [water conservation], but it won’t get a lot of benefit” in multifamily, notes Sadler. “I think they should look at it and be careful about it—submetering is not a bad thing, and conservation is important, but I hope legislators don’t lose sight of that.”