Nudging at Big Bear lake

The chair of the Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power board isn’t just putting nudges into practice – he’s using nudge in policy parlance!

The Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power board voted to change from a stage-two to a stage-one water emergency at its May 27 meeting. The change means lifting the ban on installing new turf. Customers can put in up to 500 square feet of new grass, which is about the size of the cafeteria at Bear Valley Community Hospital. Water meter connections will still be limited to 160 per year.

“I think we can sustain limited turf for the long-term,” said DWP board chairman Steve Foulkes…

Foulkes recognizes allowing turf has psychological implications, but said banning turf has more devastating effects. The DWP for too long has used regulations and punishment to send a message, he said.

“Our efforts are too command and control oriented. We need to broaden them to nudges,” Foulkes said paraphrasing from the book “Nudge” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. Foulkes suggested the DWP board and staff read the book and implement its techniques.

The DWP should use its bills to convey to customers the importance of conservation, Foulkes said. Rates that make high water use expensive, detailed descriptions of the customer’s water use and its impacts will help nudge the customer toward conservation, he said.

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